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Medical Education

Departmental faculty plays an integral role in in basic science medical teaching at the Keck School of Medicine. The Department of Integrative Anatomical Sciences has the primary responsibility for the core anatomical disciplines: gross anatomy, microanatomy (histology) and neuroanatomy; department faculty also contribute to teaching in physiology. In addition to lectures and lab instruction, several faculty members have assumed leadership roles in teaching.

Gross Anatomy

Cadaveric dissection remains a mainstay of the first-year medical student experience. In a sense, the donors become the medical students’ first patients. We have recently undertaken a major renovation of the gross anatomy lab to add digital resources to the dissection experience. This creates a high-touch, high-tech learning experience.


Histology at the Keck School of Medicine is a team-taught discipline that includes lecture and laboratory exercises. In 2010, we developed new histology laboratory exercises featuring student self-study of virtual microscopic images. Students use their laptops to view fully navigable images from the University of Michigan and University of Iowa using Aperio ImageScope software (Aperio, CA), as well as labeled images developed at the Keck School of Medicine (Sinauer Associates, MA).

Following each lecture, students participate in laboratories in their multidisciplinary lab room (25 students each), with assistance from faculty instructors. Each laboratory handout guides students to view digital images of histologic specimens, available on a password-protected website. The majority of the specimens are stained with hematoxylin and eosin, but trichrome-stained and ultrastructural specimens also are represented. For most specimens, students have access to a fully navigable image and a corresponding labeled image. Fully navigable images approximate the experience of microscopic study. Labeled images guide students to key features of the specimen and provide confirmation of structures identified in fully navigable images.

The self-directed format encourages informal interaction with faculty instructors. Students can view virtual images at any time, even from remote sites, and can study together. This ensures that all students are viewing images of equal quality and have ready access even to rare specimens.