Endangered species: Who will teach anatomy in 2010?

Are there too many, too few, or just enough future anatomists in the training pipeline to meet teaching needs in the coming years? The answer to that question should matter to anyone who ever has an x-ray, goes to a physical therapist, takes a new medication, or sees a doctor--in other words, nearly all of usincluding medical school department chairs and medical school deans.

An article just published in the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) warns that, at a time when new technologies make the knowledge of anatomy increasingly important, "we now are facing a crisis in anatomical education...a deepening shortage of experienced faculty members willing to teach gross anatomy to medical and dental students, as well as other health profession students."

In a 2002 survey conducted by American Association of Anatomists (AAA) and the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairpersons (AACBNC), more than 80% of medical school department chairs responsible for teaching anatomy acknowledged having difficulty recruiting faculty to teach this important subject. "Whereas an adequate number of students are receiving training in gross anatomy, most are being lost as teachers during their postdoctoral years," the article's authors state. They attribute this loss of potential gross anatomy educators to faculty members' perceptions that research contributions are valued over teaching contributions, and to several changes in the structure of anatomy departments and programs that occurred over the past few decades.

The article notes, however, that there are enough qualified persons in the pipeline to reverse this shortage as long as the academic community provides incentives to encourage new faculty members to teach gross anatomy when they make the transition from postdoctoral fellows to junior faculty members.


Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Page: 1

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