Anatomy Resources: AAA’s Ethics & Professionalism in Teaching the Anatomical Sciences

By Sheryll Poe | September 12, 2022

AAA has a number of free web teaching resources to help professors, but perhaps the most popular and interesting page is the “Ethics & Professionalism in Teaching the Anatomical Sciences.”

The Ethics & Professionalism in Teaching page is compiled and curated by Tom Champney of the University of Miami, Sabine Hildebrandt of Harvard Medical School and Jon Cornwall of New Zealand’s University of Otago. The impetus for the page was a symposium at an AAA annual meeting and the realization that there was general lack of resources on the topics of ethics and professionalism, said Cornwall. “Over the years we’d kind of figured out that the resources mostly served the First World, and even they didn’t have a full understanding of breadth of ethics and anatomy. We thought it would be useful to create resources that were free and available to everyone.”

That original symposium then led to regular sessions to keep ethics and professionalism top of mind, Champney said. “A number of people had questions, which led to unicorn sessions, so we could answer questions on topics every quarter.”

Eventually, the Ethics & Professionalism in Teaching page was born. “One thing we try to be careful about is we try not to be prescriptive, as in, ‘This is right, this is wrong,’ but rather questions that they can use as starting points to a discussion to bring the issues to light. I don’t want us to sound like we have all the ethics answers, but these are the issues we face in this community and these are the questions we discuss in these situations,” Champney said.

Just scrolling through the page and unit titles is fascinating, Cornwall points out. “One of the things I suspect is that everyone who opens the page would learn something, even looking at the headings. Just open the page and look at the titles. By doing that we’re helping raise awareness of these issues.”

The units, which are organized by teaching discipline — embryology, gross anatomy, histology, neuroanatomy, and the very popular, “bioethics unicorns” — drill down on top medical ethics and professionalism topics facing health professions students. Each unit includes discussion points and a handful of PowerPoint slides that teachers can weave into their curriculums.

Topics range from moral conflict in the dissection lab to the development and use of HeLa cells in cell biology research. Future units will include resources on dermatome maps and the Indian bone trade. 

Champney, Sabine and Cornwall also want to hear from other teaching professionals on other topics to include and explore. “We encourage people to think of other content they’d like to develop. We can help develop them and post them up,” Cornwall noted.

“We just want people to be thinking about these issues, and to be thinking about how the anatomy lab can be a safe place for students to be discussing and expressing their views on these issues,” Champney said.

Check out the Ethics & Professionalism in Teaching the Anatomical Sciences webpage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s