Survival of the fittest in anatomical scholarship and the rapid evolution of Anatomical Sciences Education


  • Wojciech Pawlina M.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Mayo Medical School, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
    • Mayo Medical School, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
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  • Richard L. Drake Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Cleveland Clinic Lerner, College of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio
    • Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic/NA24, 9500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44195, USA
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The technological revolution of the past decade has changed the culture of scholarship, as we know it. Changes in both the goals and the practices that are being implemented by anatomy teachers have been fueled by advances in our knowledge about how students learn and how they adapt to new teaching methodologies (Sugand et al., 2010). More and more, anatomy teachers are stepping back in this new era and wondering if their didactic methods make any difference in the learning outcomes of this new Millennial generation of students (DiLullo et al., 2011) who enter anatomy classes expecting to use smartphones, tablet computers, and social media to aid their learning. How can anatomy teachers translate the new dialect of sound bytes and cryptic “abbreves” into an understanding of anatomical concepts that trigger processes of logical reasoning? Where can anatomy teachers find and submit evidence-based materials for new didactic methodologies, high quality educational research, and scholarly work necessary for promotion and tenure specific to the field of anatomical sciences education? Indeed, an expansive niche opened at the dawn of this revolutionary educational era swelling with new products, ideas, and leaders. Academic journals that were swift to respond to the field's booming interest and mentor new scholars to share knowledge as it rapidly advances have risen to new academic authority—Anatomical Sciences Education (ASE) is one of those journals.

A recent search of the National Library of Medicine PubMed database (PubMed, 2011) using the key words “anatomical sciences education” produces 432 entries related to this topic since the first article on this subject appeared in 1976 (Davai, 1976). Of the 432 entries, 253 were published in ASE. In its first 4 years of existence, ASE has contributed more entries in PubMed related to this subject (59% of total) than have all the other indexed journals combined in their 35 years of collection. The remaining 41% of the articles were distributed among a variety of journals including: Clinical Anatomy, The Anatomical Record, Annals of Anatomy, Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy, Journal of Dental Education, Academic Medicine, Medical Teacher, Medical Education, and other clinical and basic science specialty journals.

The results from searching other phrases such as “gross anatomy education,” “teaching gross anatomy,” “curriculum gross anatomy,” or “dissection gross anatomy” similarly indicate that ASE has become a valuable resource for the exchange of ideas, opinions, innovation, and research on topics related to anatomical sciences education (Fig. 1). This trend begs consideration: Has the availability of a new publication venue like ASE awakened a dormant discipline or has ASE made a timely response to a resurgence of anatomy-specific scholarship? Either way, faculty members involved in teaching the anatomical sciences at every level now see the value of sharing scholarly work (Fincher et al., 2000; Pawlina and Drake, 2010) and during this time of drastic curricular revision and educational reform (Drake et al., 2009; Craig et al., 2010), academic journals have seen an unprecedented urgency. ASE has responded quickly, giving faculty members the opportunity to follow Earnest Boyer's (1990) call for “transmitting, transforming and extending education knowledge” beyond their own anatomy classrooms or laboratories.

Figure 1.

Search results from PubMed database on 1 December 2011. Years in parentheses indicate the period of time the journal's articles have been included in PubMed. The vertical axis counts the number of entries found in each journal relevant to four subcategories of anatomical science education.

ASE has gained a reputation for providing a speedy initial review, rapid publication, and high quality printing. ASE also mentors new authors and makes every effort to recruit papers from educational conferences around the world (Pawlina and Drake, 2010). Furthermore, ASE aims to help start the careers of students and young professionals, many of whom are now faculty members at their institutions, by providing a platform for their voices and guiding them in the process of scholarly publishing. The author of a comprehensive and highly cited anatomy education review published in ASE (Sugand et al., 2010) stated:

I am now in a better position to empower and guide clinicians worldwide to submit their publications and promote global collaboration, which mostly stemmed from my association with ASE … I want to simply thank you and ASE for opening so many doors for me and allowing me to do what I love doing most: research, write, and educate. (Sugand, 2011).

As we begin our fifth year of publication, we would like to thank all those involved in the production of this journal for helping make ASE a success. Your suggestions, reviews, submissions, solicitations, advertising, and production support have brought ASE to this scholarly summit—with a reputation we are proud to behold—as a leader in the field of science education.