Innovations Program

To expand the development, implementation, or adoption of innovative approaches and technologies that will benefit the membership and association. Proposed projects should seek to invest in the association and its membership to advance the strategic plan. Proposed projects must be relevant to the mission, vision, and values of the association. 

For the purposes of this initiative, projects deemed innovative may by built around an emerging paradigm, approaching an existing problem from a new perspective, or adopting novel approaches for your institute's catchment area, among other creative ideas. In other words, what is new and different about your project that makes it valuable to the association and its membership? What makes your project viable? 

  • Why will your innovative approach work? 
  • What new approaches does your projects use? 
  • If you are combining existing approaches, how is your project novel? 
  • What unique resources will be developed and how will it benefit the membership? 
Successful proposals will demonstrate a clear link to elements of the strategic plan and demonstrate benefits to the association and its membership. Grant recipients received up to $50,000 to dive deeper into innovation and implement their project ideas. 

Grants will be evaluated to fund projects that best fulfill the following criteria:

All applicants included on a proposal must be current members ● Clarity of problem statement and specific aims
Benefits to the membership, potential members and association
Utilization of creative and innovative solutions, approaches or technologies
Inclusivity and meaningful engagement of key stakeholders
Application of appropriate educational/research principles to an identified gap or challenge
Coherence among project goals, methods, and evaluation plan
Feasibility of timeline, resources, and execution
Collaboration and partnerships across department/ grade level, other disciplines, schools, and/or community organizations
Awareness of potential limitations of the project and proposed practical solutions
Quality and technical merit (including measurable outcomes, dissemination of findings and project sustainability)


Funds are for project development and do not cover salaries.

Past Innovations Program Recipients

Deadline Information:
Not being offered in 2024. Check back for future dates.

Payline Percentages

2021 - 28%
2020 & 2019 - No Awards Given
2018 - 4%
2017 - 6%
2016 - 11%
2015 - 10%
2014 - 8%

2022 Recipients

The Anato-Bee: A Scholastic Competition in the Anatomical Sciences for High School Students
Principal Investigators: Jenna Hagerty, M.S., Ph.D., Norbert Myslinski, Ph.D., Dana Peterson, M.A., M.Ed., Ph.D., and Mary Piscura, Ph.D.
Amount Awarded: $50,000

This educational competition would be modeled after the extremely successful, International Brain Bee competitions for high school students. Since its inception twenty years ago, this neuroscience “spelling bee-style” competition annually engages over 25,000 students from more than 50 countries. The Anato-Bee would partner with those U.S. colleges and universities currently hosting local Brain Bee competitions to provide resources to their faculty and graduate students to host virtual anatomical sciences competitions in each state during the early spring of 2024. State winners would advance to four selected regional host institution sites where the culminating in-person competitions would be held during late spring of 2024. The selected regional host institutions would receive financial support from the grant to host these 2-day long competitions. Each regional competition would be identical in length and would disseminate identical question sets to the participants.

Anatomy Nights: Developing Resources for Public Engagement with Anatomy
Principal Investigator: Janet Philp, Jason Organ, Kat Sanders
Amount Awarded: $25,000

Anatomy Nights (Sanders et al 2022) was founded in 2018; it is an event format that brings the fundamental practice of dissection (non-human) into the public sphere and ensures that anatomists are involved in public engagement events about the human body in casual spaces such as bars and pubs. Since its inception, Anatomy Nights has reached venues around the world including Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the USA. Funding is used to support the development of an AAA Anatomy Nights library of public engagement resources which can be used by educators to deliver premier anatomical educational events across the globe. The program will also showcase one of these events to a public audience at the AAA conference in 2023, and to run a delegate workshop at the 2024 AAA conference to introduce the wider membership to the resources that are available as a result of this project. These public events and workshops will continue to run for the next 4 years at AAA conferences to ensure the project is embedded within the AAA community. This will make public engagement in the hosting city a staple of AAA conferences, and equip participants to host their own local events to educate the public and engage them in understanding their own anatomy.

2021 Recipients

Histology Coloring Book
Principal Investigators: Tamara Franz-Odendaal and Karen Pinder
Amount Awarded: $50,000

This book will provide hands-on, interactive experiences that enable students to utilize active learning skills as they complete coloring correlates to the micro- anatomical structures (cells, tissues and organs) of the human body. It is known that coloring offers many advantages to learning as it is multisensory (engaging spatial and visual processing, and physical movement). It helps students see the exact boundaries between structures and how they connect with nearby structures. It is also a relaxing way to learn. The Histology Coloring Workbook will be illustrated by medical illustrators and published, making it available to students and educators across the globe.

"We are delighted to be recipients of a AAA Innovations Grant, which will permit us to develop and implement a novel and creative approach to the teaching and learning of micro-anatomy (histology)," say the PIs, who met at the University of Cape Town in 1997. "This grant funding will be utilized to expand the positive impact of this core foundational science in medical and allied health sciences curricula, to the benefit of the association, its membership and other international audiences of educators and learners."

High School Anatomy Training Program (HSATP)
Principal Investigator: Habiba Chirchir
Amount Awarded: $50,000

The intention of the HSATP is to train educators on hands on, problem-based learning and dissection methods that they will implement in their high school anatomy classes to prepare the learners for collegiate anatomical studies and health care fields. We propose to host three HSATP training workshops at Marshall University over the course of three semesters for 18 teachers (i.e., 18 schools) resulting in the training of about 360 students. Teaching materials (e.g., preserved specimens for dissections, anatomical models, 3D software), a dissection skill set and solicit additional specimens for dissection from the community during hunting season, will be provided. Our proposed project provides an informal training component in which students will attend anatomy summer campus- focusing on problem-based learning. The project will include follow up assessments for the teachers and students during and at the end of the HSTAP to identify the efficacy of the program.  

"We are very excited that our project on the development and implementation of this anatomy training program for high schoolers in WV was funded," says Chirchir. "This program will be impactful to young West Virginian students’ and their teachers including minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Through training of teachers on hands-on, problem-based learning and dissection methods, the implementation of the anatomy training program will prepare learners for collegiate anatomical studies and health care fields."

The Global Neuroanatomy Network (GNN)
Principal Investigator: Mikaela Stiver and Melissa Carroll
Amount Awarded: $50,000

The GNN aims to be an international platform where members can access and share support by exchanging expertise and curated peer-reviewed teaching resources, including a database of clinical cases developed by our core team through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moreover, it aims to support global equity and accessibility in neuroanatomy education by providing educators with free, pedagogically sound resources in various formats, sizes, and languages that incorporate content that is both culturally sensitive and regionally relevant to members around the world.  See all team members here.

"On behalf of the entire Global Neuroanatomy Network (GNN) team, we are tremendously grateful for the AAA’s support through the Innovations Program," say the GNN PIs, "The idea for this initiative grew organically from an informal neuroanatomy working group that formed on Twitter, recognizing the need to create an online hub for resource and experience sharing to support neuroanatomy educators around the world. The GNN aims to complement existing AAA-funded projects — such as the Virtual Microscopy Database (VMD) and Virtual Dissection Databased (VDD) — with a specific emphasis on creating and disseminating neuroanatomy resources that are accessible and applicable to a wide range of global contexts.”

Developing and Elevating Leaders with Tools for Advancement (DELTA)
Principal Investigators: Rebecca Lufler and Lela Giannaris
Amount Awarded: $50,000

This program will consist of three parts: (1) a 3-day retreat held in summer 2023, with invited speakers, face-to-face mentoring sessions and workshops, (2) virtual mentored projects, and (3) final project presentations. During the 3-day retreat, the DELTA program will bring together leaders in faculty development and anatomy to cover topics including: development of leadership skills and opportunities, negotiation skills, effective communication skills, feedback, bias education, wellness, and mentoring. Each participant will be assigned a mentor to meet with monthly throughout the program as they work toward achieving their leadership goals. Participants will become equipped with critical skills for career advancement, continued professional development and increased engagement within AAA.

"We are looking forward to sharing our leadership training and cultivating the leadership growth of AAA members," say the PIs of the project. "The DELTA program creates a longitudinal, mentored, leadership professional development opportunity specifically for underrepresented and diverse groups in academia. Given the staggering statistics documenting low numbers of women and underrepresented groups in advanced academic and leadership positions, there is a need for a leadership program to make an immediate, long-lasting, and wide-spread impact - DELTA is that change."

2018 Recipient
Summer Opportunities in Anatomy Research (SOAR)

Principal Investigator: Rachel Menegaz, Ph.D., University of North Texas Health Science Center 
Amount Awarded: $50,000

The Summer Opportunities in Anatomy Research (SOAR) program is 10-week internship program that offers hands-on experiences in anatomical research, education, and outreach to undergraduate students. SOAR specifically targets undergraduate populations that do not share a campus with a graduate anatomy program or have similar opportunities at their home institutions. The mission of SOAR is to recruit the next generation of anatomists from diverse and underrepresented groups, with a focus on retaining those students through individual mentorship and early career preparation.

2017 Recipient
SciComm Bootcamp

Principal Investigator: Jason Organ, Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine
Amount Awarded: $50,000

The inaugural Science Communication (SciComm) Boot Camp organized by members Jason Organ and Krista Hoffmann-Longtin was hosted on July 10-12 at the Indiana University School of Medicine where both are faculty. The insightful and engaging event was fully funded by the AAA Innovations Program because it directly aligns with the strategic plan’s Lead in Science Communication goal and builds a framework for training members to better engage with legislators, media, and the public. 

2016 Recipients
Anatomy for Every Body, an Outreach Program
Co-Principal Investigators: Jason Musell, Ph.D.,Louisiana State University and Adam Sylvester, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  
Amount awarded: $50,000

This program seeks to change the perception of the AAA and its members by showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of its constituents using a scalable, innovative, Plug and Play (PnP) Outreach Program, dubbed Anatomy for Every Body that will serve as a model that can be employed in a variety of settings and across scientific disciplines. This iterative program will be driven by feedback from the target audience of late middle school and early high school students from underserved populations, their parents, and their teachers to develop an evidence-based format of effective outreach most successful in educating the public about anatomy, the AAA, and its members.

“I Am Anatomy,” Raising Awareness of Transforming Perceptions by Promoting Professional Diversity
Submitted by Co-Principal Investigators Brent Thompson, Ph.D., Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Joshua W. Little, D.C., Ph.D. (Co-PI), Saint Louis University School of Medicine; and Christina Lewis, Ph.D. (Co-PI), Samuel Merritt University, on behalf of the Membership Committee. 
Amount awarded: $50,000  

The overall objective of the “I am Anatomy” campaign is to enhance the awareness of anatomy, promote the professional diversity of the discipline, and transform the perception of anatomy, using multimedia including videos and social media platforms. The common public and professional perception of anatomy is: “anatomists teach gross anatomy.” While teaching is an important aspect of many anatomists’ careers, this perception is limiting and fails to recognize the full spectrum of the discipline branches, research fields, and scientific interests encompassed by the anatomical sciences. These videos will be promoted via multimedia and social media platforms. Additionally, the team will be creating professionally produced content for use in anatomy outreach activities to promote interest in the field of anatomy by the next generation of scientists.

2015 Recipients
Anatomy Educational Research Institute (AERI)
The team of Valerie Dean O’Loughlin, Polly R. Husmann, and James J. Brokaw, of the Indiana University School of Medicine     
Amount awarded: $50,000

AERI will be a 5-day conference offered the summer of 2017, and will partner leaders in anatomy educational research with anatomists interested in improving their teaching and educational research skill sets.  AERI participants will be actively engaged and immersed in teaching pedagogies, assessments, and educational research/inquiry.  In addition, unlike webinars, AERI will provide significant face-to-face time and opportunity for discussion, collaboration, and networking among participants and field leaders.  

Anatomical Network Analysis
The team of Rui Diogo (PI) and co-PIs Julia Molnar, and Borja Esteve-Altava, of Howard University College of Medicine, in collaboration with co-PIs Julia Boughner (University of Saskatchewan) and Christopher Smith (Mount Sinai).
Amount awarded: $50,000

This project introduces to AAA and the anatomical community a powerful new method to quantify musculoskeletal modularity, integration, complexity and evolvability. The Anatomical Network Analysis will show the results of, and help explain how one does anatomical network analyses which are the newest way of promoting anatomical studies within the rising field of systems biology. In particular, by using network theory these analyses allow researchers to study the evolution of patterns of integration, modularity, and complexity, and therefore of evolvability, in a quantitative, more objective, innovative way.

2014 Recipients
Professional Development Webinars: Filling in the Gaps
Submitted on behalf of the Professional Development Committee by Phillip Brauer, Ph.D.
Amount awarded: $50,000

This program will address gaps in graduate education and research training by developing and offering online webinar courses and programs to members. The Professional Development Committee will develop three webinars as pilot projects each addressing a specific set of skills essential for successful professional career development of researchers and educators.

Virtual Microscopy Database  – Innovations in Resource Sharing and Collaboration
Co-principal investigators: Lisa M.J. Lee, Ph.D., Michael Hortsch, Ph.D., Haviva M. Goldman, Ph.D.
Amount awarded: $50,000

This program will address creating a centralized repository where users can download and/or upload digital histology slides to provide educators and researchers with a wide selection of slides that can be used for courses and for enhancing educational research and innovation. It is the intention of the program to also provide similar access to non-AAA members thereby increasing the database and establishing AAA as the leader in open-access resource provider and continue to succeed in member recruitment.