Development of an Education Track in Anatomy Ph.D. at Indiana University School of Medicine

Presenter First Name: 
Presenter Last Name: 
Brokaw, PhD, MPH
Year of Presentation: 


Not enough anatomists are being trained to meet future teaching needs

  • 2002 survey of Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairpersons.
  • Anatomy classes face gross shortage. Science 299:1309, 2003.
  • Wanted: More anatomy instructors – institutions explore ways to cope with shortages. AAMC Reporter 13:6-7, 2003.
  • The importance of anatomy in health professions education and the shortage of qualified educators. Academic Medicine 80:349-351, 2005.
  • 2005 AAA meeting symposium focused on shortage of qualified anatomy instructors.
  • It is estimated that ~625 classically trained PhD gross anatomists will retire in the next decade.
  • It is projected that ~190 graduate students will be trained in the next few years who have expressed intents to teach gross anatomy.
  • The AAMC anticipates an impending physician shortage and is recommending a 30% increase in medical class size by 2015.
  • Five new medical schools will likely open in next 5 yrs.
  • Thus, the demand for gross anatomy teachers will far exceed the available supply.

Historical Trends Leading to Current Situation
Over the past two decades:

  • Advances in science have increasingly focused on cellular and molecular research.
  • Competition for grad students has resulted in departments dropping requirements for taking and/or teaching gross anatomy.
  • There has been little incentive to become involved in teaching gross anatomy because of the course contact hour commitment.

Institutional Strategies to Cope with Shortages:

  • Training junior faculty with cell or molecular biology backgrounds to teach gross anatomy
  • Using non-tenured, part-time, or retired faculty (including physicians)
  • Adoption of computer-based technology as an adjunct to traditional teaching, e.g., simulated dissections
  • Hiring physical anthropologists, non-licensed international medical graduates

Paradigm Challenge: Education Track Anatomy PhD
Anatomist/Educational Researcher

  • Teaches the anatomical disciplines to medical students and other health professions students  
  • Contributes original scholarship in medical education research
  • Plays a vital role in the continuum of medical education within schools of medicine

Committee to Develop Curriculum for Education Track Anatomy PhD
Composed of 8 faculty members:

  • Anatomists from around the state (6)- All are experienced teachers, some with educational research backgrounds
  • Vice-Chair of Surgery - MS in anatomy and PhD in science education
  • Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Education - Provided the critical link to establish collaboration with School of Education

Guiding Principle for Education Track Curriculum

  • The new curriculum must prepare the Anatomist/Educational Researcher not only to teach, but to produce the scholarly work necessary for promotion and tenure

The new curriculum must have two equally-important components:

  • Broad training in the anatomical sciences with ample teaching experience
  • A firm grounding in educational theory and methodology, coupled with the training needed to conduct rigorous educational research

What does the Education Track curriculum look like?
Anatomy Core (31 hrs)
D850 Gross Anatomy (8)
D851 Histology (4)
D852 Neuroscience and Clinical Neurology (5)
X/G804 Cellular and Molecular Biology (3)
D861 Seminar (1); required yearly (5 total)
Dxxx Teaching Practicum (2); required teaching in all three disciplines (6 total)

Education Core (18 hrs)

M620 Pedagogical Methods in the Health Sciences (3)
J500 Instruction in the Context of Curriculum (3)  
P510 Psychology of Teaching (3)
Y520 Strategies for Educational Inquiry (3)
Y527 Educational Assessment and Psychological Measurement (3)
Y535 Evaluation Models and Techniques (3)
One course selected from educational administration, educational technology, or qualitative research methodology (3)

Statistics Courses (6 hrs)
G651 Introduction to Biostatistics I (3)
G652 Introduction to Biostatistics II (3)
Electives (9 hrs)
Courses in Basic Science, Education, or Statistics selected in consultation with advisor

Qualifying Examination
For admission to doctoral candidacy, students will be required to pass a comprehensive examination of anatomical knowledge, and to create and defend an educational research project in the format of an NIH-style grant proposal.  

Research and Dissertation
Independent research in medical education, culminating in a written dissertation and oral defense
Dissertation committee would include faculty members from the School of Medicine and the School of Education

Comparison of Education Track with Traditional Research Track

Education Track
90 hours total required, with 64 hours in courses other than research

Anatomy (20)
Seminar (5)
Teaching (6)
Education (18)
Statistics (6)
Electives (9)
Research (26)

Research Track
90 hours total required, with 32 hours in courses other than research

Anatomy (12-17)
Seminar (5)
Teaching (0)
Minor (12)
Statistics (3)
Electives (0)
Research (53-58)

Year 1Gross Anatomy (8)
Cellular and Molecular Biology (3)
Histology (4)
Introduction to Biostatistics I (3)
Pedagogical Methods in the Health Sciences (3)
Seminar (1)
Psychology of Teaching (3)
Year 2Neuroscience and Clinical Neurology (5)
Introduction to Biostatistics II (3)
Instruction in the Context of Curriculum (3)
Strategies for Educational Inquiry (3)
Education Selective (3)
Teaching Practicum (2)
Seminar (1)
Year 3Evaluation Models and Techniques (3)
Free Elective (3)
Teaching Practicum (2)
Free Elective (3)
Free Elective (3)
Teaching Practicum (2)
Seminar (1)
Qualifying Research Exam
Year 4Research

Seminar (1)

Year 5Research/DissertationSeminar (1)
Oral Defense

External Advisors for Education Track:
Mark A. Albanese, PhD
Professor of Population Health Sciences
Director of Medical Education Research and Development
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Larry D. Gruppen, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Education
University of Michigan Medical School

Ilene B. Harris, PhD
Professor of Medical Education
Director of Graduate Studies n Health Professions Education Leadership
University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago

Brian E. Mavis, PhD
Associate Professor and Director, Office of Medical Education Research and Development
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Status of Education track
The Approval Process

  • Anatomy Department: 11/17/06
  • IUSM Graduate Division: 1/2/07
  • IUPUI Graduate Affairs Committee: 3/27/07
  • IU Graduate Council: 9/24/07
  • IU Academic Leadership Council: 11/2/07
  • First students accepted for August 2008

Challenges and Lessons Learned
Criticisms to Overcome

  • Perceived by some as a “teaching” degree rather than a research degree
  • How can a science PhD be awarded for doing a “non-science” dissertation?

Key Elements of Success

  • Buy-in from faculty
  • Knowledgeable committee members
  • Emphasis on academic rigor
  • Support of leadership
  • Collaboration with School of Education
  • Persistence and salesmanship
American Association of Anatomists

9650 Rockville Pike Bethesda, Maryland 20814-3998
Tel: 301-634-7910 | Fax: 301-634-7965


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