McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster-Mohawk collaboration enlivens the anatomy experience

Published: April 12, 2017
Carolyn Byrne addresses students
A Mohawk College health sciences student actively engages with a specimen in the Anatomy lab

For some Mohawk College students, anatomy class is filled with anticipation and plenty of "a-ha" moments. That's because, for the first time, these students are studying the human body in McMaster University's anatomy labs.

Through a partnership between the two institutions, an updated anatomy curriculum—this includes lab time as well as a custom-built, interactive lab manual—is available to roughly 200 first-year students in Mohawk's practical nursing and pharmacy technician programs. The goal is to facilitate learning that extends beyond textbooks and lecture halls to as many as 1,000 college students in a variety of health sciences disciplines.

"It's the largest university-college collaboration around anatomy and physiology that I've ever heard of," said Bruce Wainman, director of McMaster's Education Program in Anatomy. "It's certainly the largest in Canada."

Until now, anatomy lab access has been restricted to McMaster University students. Since Mohawk's Faculty of Health Sciences classrooms are on McMaster's campus, getting Mohawk students into a McMaster lab seemed like a no-brainer, said Christy Taberner, the professor of innovation, applied health research at Mohawk who is overseeing the course.

"I couldn't envision trying to learn anatomy without having hands-on experience," she said. "The students are very grateful for it."

The students work through a course of 14 weeks with the same high quality lab specimens as McMaster's medical students.

According to Wainman, the benefits of opening up activity-based learning experiences like this to college students are significant: "We're making more efficient use of our facilities at McMaster. Another big benefit is we're doing a better job of fulfilling the wishes of the donor."

For the students who recently wrapped up their first semester of the pilot program, the difference in learning is palpable.

"Seeing and feeling a physical specimen is just so much better than what you can learn from a textbook," said Annie Fraser Smith, a practical nursing student enrolled in the class. "You can't get from a picture what bones in a hand weigh. But when you pick it up, it's so light. So complex."

"It's absolutely phenomenal," added Jeff Nichol, also a practical nursing student. "When you're hands-on, you really get to see how dynamic and unique these body parts are."


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