Introduction: The Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy (GCBA) Department at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is comprised of 21 faculty members and emeritus faculty. About 300 students in medical, allied health and graduate programs receive instruction by departmental faculty in the following subjects: Gross Anatomy; Embryology; Histology; Cell and Molecular Biology; and the Neurosciences. The department also has an active graduate program in a variety of interdisciplinary research areas.
Teaching Leadership: GCBA Faculty play important roles in directing education at UNMC. Dr. Kim Latacha, Interim Department Vice Chair for Professional Education, is the Component Leader for gross anatomy and the Co-Leader for the Musculoskeletal and Integumentary Block. Dr. Keely Cassidy is the Component Leader for Embryology and is the Director of ‘Structure and Development of the Human Body’ for the Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant students. Dr. Travis McCumber is the Component Leader for Histology and the Director of the gross anatomy laboratory. Dr. Samantha Simet is the Co-Director of ‘Structure and Development of the Human Body’ for Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant students and is the Director of the anatomy courses for the Masters of Medical Anatomy and High School Alliance students. Dr. Rob Norgren is the Co-Leader for the Neurosciences Block. Dr. Karen Gould is departmental Vice Chair for Graduate Education and Chair of the Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy Graduate Program Committee.
Teaching Excellence: The GCBA department has been recognized for excellence through numerous teaching awards presented to its faculty. In 2017, the department received the prestigious University-wide Departmental Teaching Award. The department also won the award in April 1997, and is the only department to the win the award more than once. Over the past 24 years, faculty members in the department have received numerous teaching awards including more than 20 "Golden Apple" awards, given annually by classes of medical students to outstanding teachers. In professional examinations, UNMC anatomy students consistently have scored above the national average. Exceptional performance by its students on national standardized examinations, participation by its faculty in development of innovative curricula, and the success of its graduates have all demonstrated the department’s commitment to excellence.
Gross Anatomy/Neuroscience Laboratory: UNMC continues to pursue state-of-the-art technology for teaching gross anatomy and neuroscience. Currently each dissection/lab table has access to its own networked computer connected to a ceiling-mounted high resolution video projector and displayed on a 50" screen. The screens at the ends of the table allow everyone at the table to easily read the text and illustrations displayed. A wide array of digital resources is available on these computers for students’ self-study. For efficiency everything is mouse-driven with a moveable mouse tray at each table.
To improve efficiency and student-directed learning environment, an Interactive Dissecting Guide and an Interactive Neuroanatomy Guide were developed that link the bolded terms in the print versions of these guides with the appropriate atlas illustration. The computers and interactive guides allow students to progress at their own pace and at the same time it frees up the faculty to interact more with the students and focus on more in-depth discussions rather than simple identifications.
The lab has the capability to take over control of all the computer screens and display the same image on all screens. This is used to show live video demonstrations with a high-resolution digital video camera. We also conduct review sessions of radiology and cross-sectional anatomy on the student screens. The technology upgrade and interactive online programs have clearly enhanced the education of our students while making the dissection process more efficient and engaging for students and faculty.
Virtual Microscopy Lab: The traditional histology labs for teaching microscopic anatomy to freshmen medical students and histopathology to sophomore medical students have switched entirely to virtual microscopy (VM). The addition of the Michael Sorrell Center provides one computer lab with 72 computers and a separate technology lab with 60 laptop computers for the use of virtual microscopy (VM) for histology and pathology education. VM is the computer presentation of digitized tissue sections for use in research and education in cell biology, histology and histopathology. Entire microscope slides are scanned at high magnification and the individual images stitched into a single image that allows students to move around the side with a mouse and the ability to zoom in and out anywhere on the slide. Essentially, digital virtual slides replace the tissue sections on glass slides and a computer workstation replaced the microscopes. The information can be annotated, edited and accessed simultaneously from remote sites. Once captured, the "virtual image" opens up the entire range of visualization, image analysis and quantification of microscopic structures. VM has created a more interactive learning environment where the students work in pairs to learn histology and the faculty can engage with students around a virtual image.