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Graduate Anatomy Degree?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by pharmstudent993, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. pharmstudent993

    pharmstudent993 Freshman in HS
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    Hey all,

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know of any graduate programs in anatomy, and if someone does happen to earn a degree in anatomy, what sort of jobs exists for anatomists? Thank you for all your replies in advance.
     
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  3. dmblue

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    I didn't even know you could major in it as an undergraduate, but apparently at some schools you can.
     
  4. strangeglove

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    There are departments of anatomy in medical schools that grant PhDs. However, these exist primarily for the purpose of providing teachers for medical gross anatomy. Nobody does research on anatomy per se in these departments. They all do some form of molecular biology or physiology (thus, the departments are usually called something like "Anatomy and Cell Biology", for instance). There will usually be a couple of very old professors who do neuroanatomic tract tracing, which is the study of connections in the brain in animals - the only "anatomy" that is still a viable area for research, in my opinion. Otherwise, anatomy is pretty much a static field, i.e. we "know" all that there is to learn by examining the gross structure of the human body.
     
  5. pharmstudent993

    pharmstudent993 Freshman in HS
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    Thank you. Any more information is greatly appreciated. Oh, by the way, does anyone know of any research currently done in the field of microanatomy (histology)?
     
    #4 pharmstudent993, Dec 10, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  6. DrJD

    DrJD Junior Member
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    One of the medical school professors here at Georgetown has his PhD in Anatomy, but teaches and does research in embryology... I think that these two fields have a lot of overlap.

    He know his anatomy better than anyone I've ever met, and I think its because he is so fluent in how it all develops. Something you could consider!
     
  7. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    In the U.S. anatomy is somewhat of a lost art. Personally, I enjoy hearing some of the great anatomists relay their knowledge, but I fear that this will ultimately disappear in the next generation or so. Physiology is likely to be the next victim... :thumbdown:
     
  8. pharmstudent993

    pharmstudent993 Freshman in HS
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    Thank you all very much!!! I will consider the field of embryology, and it is sad to here that anatomy is becoming a lost art...
    Any more info or input is greatly appreciated.
     
  9. strangeglove

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    I don't think it has anything to do with anatomy being a "lost art." First, there will always be people who know anatomy very well, as this knowledge has a great deal of clinical relevance. Second, anatomy is a purely descriptive field; there is no place for experimentation. Similar for embryology, unless it involves some sort of molecular or cellular component. The only thing you need to be a good anatomist is a lot of time spent looking at cadavers and memorizing names of structures and how they relate to each other in space (which is pretty much what you do in medical school). You don't need to learn techniques or how to think scientifically, which is what you generally do in a PhD program.
     
  10. pharmstudent993

    pharmstudent993 Freshman in HS
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    Thank you very much.
     
  11. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    I'll go off on a related rant because I agree with you. What is the first way anatomy dies? Stop teaching it to medical students. Stop having them do their own dissections. The cost outweighs the benefits, they will say. And make no mistake, cost is the #1 factor for cutting anatomy out of some medical school cirricula. Instead it will be, look at some pictures (mostly Netter's--i.e. drawings!), we'll show you some prosections... The teachers of anatomy will pass, and nobody will have a good sense of the fine structure of the body. When medical students don't learn anatomy anymore, neither will nursing students or any of the other professional students that currently learn anatomy. I was appalled when I found how hard it was for grad students to take anatomy, whether that be neuroanatomy for Neuroscience students (depends on the school, some it's impossible) or anatomy for students in Radiology labs (impossible).

    Then who knows. Will our return to the pre-cadaver days of medicine come? We'll have a bunch of people teaching anatomy who have never even dissected a body themselves, not really wanting to touch it? Maybe only surgeons will know anatomy, but only the small amount of anatomy that relates to their own subspecialty... I don't think it will get this far, but I think it would be very sad if it did.
     
  12. smq123

    smq123 John William Waterhouse
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    I agree with this, for the most part. Some anatomists are trying to start getting a better sense of anatomic variants, and how frequently they occur in the population. Other anatomists are also doing a lot of research into ways that we can improve medical education. It's not "basic science research," per se, but I would argue that it's very important.

    Embryology definitely has its place in clinical and translational research. Ob/gyn and pharm research requires a good knowledge of embryology.

    How is physiology going to be the next victim? :confused:

    Unlike anatomy, there is almost zero cost required in teaching physiology. While you could argue that anatomy requires a significant cost (in the need for cadavers, cadaver storage, etc.), physiology can be taught effectively with textbooks, discussions, case studies, and computer-generated models. Physiology is the cornerstone of almost everything that we do in medicine, from peri-operative care to cardiology, to GI, to pulmonology, to neonatology, etc.
     
  13. smq123

    smq123 John William Waterhouse
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    - What is the TRUE value of doing your own dissections? It may be expensive, but what is worse is how inefficient it is.

    As an MS1 doing dissections, for every 10 minutes I spent studying the anatomy of my cadaver, I spent 60 minutes digging out that anatomy from under layers of fat, fat, and...even more fat. It's a waste of time to dig through 3 pounds of semi-liquid adipose tissue just to get to something that, a few years ago, may have been a blood vessel but is now just a calcified hunk of tissue.

    - I would RATHER have looked at prosections and Netter drawings. When it comes to surgical anatomy, cadaver anatomy is awful. Structures don't stay in place in the cadaver, so they're not really quite located where they are supposed to be. Furthermore, the people who generously donated their bodies also didn't take great care of themselves....so the lungs crumble into emphysematous bits when you pick them up, the heart is so hypertrophic as to be barely recognizable, etc.

    - A lot of MS1s rave about how Gross Anatomy gave them such an "appreciation" for the body. My experience in the Gross Anatomy lab did no such thing. The cadaver's organs have kind of blended into each other, and just lie there - no movement, no grace, no synergy. Nothing.

    My experience as an MS3 on surgery gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the human body than Gross Anatomy lab ever could. I have truly come to appreciate the magnitude of the liver's task only after taking care of liver transplant patients. The course of the ureter when it comes from the kidney makes SENSE only after you trace it with a laparoscope, while the urologist slides stents up. The delicacy of the pancreatic and biliary organs don't really hit you until you see a surgeon working his way around them.

    While I agree that anatomy is extremely important, I find myself really questioning the utility of the gross anatomy lab. It really takes 5 hours to dig out the muscles of one part of the body? Is this the best use of my time?
     
  14. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    Anatomy is dying a slow death unfortunately. There will be fewer and fewer anatomists in the coming years as they simply are not trained as they once were. Anatomy was truly an art--if you have ever taken a course from one of the great anatomists you will see this. Years spent studying the fine intricacies of detailed anatomy and variants.

    A gross anatomy course in medical school does not come close to the level of expertise required to understand anatomy or to teach it well. With respect to my area, most clinical neurologists today know far less neuroanatomy than the professors that taught them.

    We do not understand to any reasonable degree the connectivity of axon tracts in the human brain. We also do not understand well how connectivity is established in the developing brain, or how axons might rewire in the adult brain. These are intense areas of research currently. This version of anatomy tends to be studied in the context of molecular biology and genetics, and is not generally studied with the same degree of precision as an anatomist would study these things. I can say this because I did a great deal of anatomy in the course of my Ph.D. work and am very familiar with the anatomical literature and current neuroscientific literature that focuses on molecular mechanisms of connectivity in the brain.
     
  15. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    I completely agree--couldn't have said it better myself!
     
  16. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    Physiology has already started to fall victim to the relentless drive to remove basic science from medical school curricula. Physiology used to be taught in part in laboratories with vivisection and other techniques that have since fallen out of favor. It is now falling victim to the movement to teach pathology and disease up front in medical school, most currently in organ-based curricula. The major problem I have seen in learning the physiology followed closely (i.e. the next lecture) by pathology, is that students tend to brush off learning the physiology part and instead focus on the disease/medicine/pathology (which is inherently much more interesting to most medical students). Thus, it becomes for many students irrelevant to learn about the cardiac cycle, intra-chamber pressures, the basis of the ECG, and the rest of the basic material. They are much more interested to learn about MIs, arrhythmias, and management.

    To make matters worse, the NBME/USMLE is currently deciding whether to reformat their exams to focus less on the basic science and more on disease states/cases. There has been a proposal to scrap Step 1 or combine it with Step 2 and make it purely clinically-focused. That will be the next knife in the wound for physiology and other basic material. The USMLE, for better or worse, is often the driving force behind what is taught (or not taught) in undergraduate medical education. You can bet that the basic science material will be de-emphasized in the next version and by extension in future medical school curricula.

    Ok, end of rant....
     
  17. themudphud

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    hi pharmstud- there are still a few anatomy programs around the country. The research that I am familiar with is looking at anatomical structures in extinct animals, e.g. dinosaurs, and trying to figure out their purposes or if an animal was known to do something, what anatomical structures existed to allow it to so. Additionally, there are ongoing studies on how particular anatomic structures evolved over time. And if you think about it, some of these types of studies could have potential impact today but for the trend seems to be that these studies are moving to other departments. So I guess my point is that if an anatomy degree/training would be useful to what you want to do in the future, then do it. But don't expect that you will necessarily be working in an anatomy department in the future--more likely doing anatomy research in a more specialized department--e.g. neuroscience.
     

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