Anatomy Training Programme Summer School 2014

ATP Group 2014

The whole group ready to depart on the final day (missing John Morris).
Back row: Mikhail Umorin, Tracey Wilkinson, David Heylings, Clive Lee, Bob Hutchins
Middle row: Adam Taylor, Ceri Davies, Lucy Hyde, Alvin Kwan, William Cobb
Front row: Jennifer Holtzman, Vivien Shaw, Leslie Pryor-Smith, Asha Eapen

Once again this July, our ATP participants, coming from as  far afield as Texas and Aberdeen, gathered at Oxford University to complete  their ATP modules. This year, the modules ‘Neuroanatomy’ and ‘Trunk’ were on  the schedule. An intensive week of nervous presentations, spot tests and  discussions on wide-ranging aspects of anatomy were conducted, all under the  watchful eye of the staff who oversaw the modules. Participants not only  wrestled with the clinical anatomy of the anterior abdominal wall, pedagogical  concepts and the intricacies of the limbic system, but also found themselves on  the receiving end of learning sessions conducted by their peers. It was not all  hard work, however. There was time for some exploration of Oxford’s eating  establishments, culminating in an enjoyable evening at a well-known local fish  restaurant. By the end of the week, seventeen certificates had been successfully  earned by nine participants, two at distinction level. We were also joined on  one or two days by three prospective candidates for next year’s programme, who  came along to get a taste of the summer school.

This year also saw the retirement from running the programme  of David Heylings, who has done an excellent job of coordinating, overseeing  and enhancing the programme over the past several years. It is to his credit  that the ATP has been such a success and we shall miss him dearly. Luckily he  has agreed to continue with some of the portfolios of this year’s participants,  so we will not lose him entirely. Thank you, David, for your fantastic  contribution!

Prof. Tracey Wilkinson

ATP 2014 Group

The participants making  the most of the fabulous weather by sitting outdoors for dinner.

An Overview of the Summer Anatomical Training Program Session – an American Perspective

The ATP summer event was an incredible experience for both the students and the program faculty.  What I saw from the students was a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and collegiality.  The excitement was from being in Oxford University, where the students could demonstrate the knowledge they had gained during the year.  The nervousness came not only from those who hadn’t been here before, but also from those who had attended the previous year, because they weren’t sure how the week would unfold.  The collegiality stemmed from the informal, friendly atmosphere.  These three things seemed to encapsulate the week in Oxford and despite those nervous moments, the summer program was an excellent end to a long year.

Let me explain more of what I saw during the week.  The two modules for the year were broken into approximately 2½ days each.  The program director welcomed all and outlined the week’s events.  This included asking everyone what areas they felt the least comfortable with and would like to have further discussions from the faculty.  These discussions led to the only thing that resembled a lecture, as the faculty put together those topics for more in depth explanation.

The major purpose of this week however was to let the students demonstrate their knowledge gained throughout the year, which would ultimately allow them to earn the ATP certificate.  This was done by the faculty identifying the various areas from the modules and randomly assigning them to the students.  The students were then asked to go into the dissection lab, do the appropriate dissection so that they could present the area, including clinical importance, to the entire group (e.g., dissections done in the morning with presentations in the afternoon).  The key here I felt was that there needed to be clinically related anatomy presented, not just anatomy.  Students were given suggestions on two levels after their presentations: the first set of suggestions was how best to present the material, something all educators need as they hone their skills.  The second set was how best to present the clinical anatomy, which was probably the area least emphasized by the students.  When they were first building their anatomical knowledge, surgical anatomy was probably not what they were spending their time learning.  However, with this in mind, there are plenty of resources where this knowledge is available.

The other way in which the students demonstrated their knowledge was through a practical exam.  The faculty put the exam together with the available cadaveric material in the dissection lab.  This means that all of the tagged structures (30-40 tags) were not the pristine presentations found in a textbook, although sufficient anatomical landmarks were presented for appropriate identification.  As you might expect, the exam included a mixture of pure identification, secondary, and functional questions.  Following the exam, everyone graded their own exam and discussion was encouraged – this was deemed an important part of the learning process.

Although there are no formal grades assigned to the presentations or practicals, the results give the faculty a sense of what has been learned for the year.  I suppose one question that many students would want to know is whether anyone can flunk, or basically not reach a sufficient level to be awarded an ATP certificate.  When I posed this question to the faculty who have been running the program, the answer was, yes.  The hope is that if a student is insufficiently prepared, the mentor will not support, nor will the student request, participation in the summer event.  They can ask to postpone these modules to the next time.  Unfortunately, in a few cases, a student will show up, but be unable to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and no certificate would be awarded.  Fortunately, however, this does not happen very often and the majority of students will earn their certificates.

There is one other part to the program and that is the awarding of a certificate with “Distinction”.  So what does this mean?  For those students who demonstrate advanced knowledge of an area, ask very insightful questions, and demonstrate superior knowledge during their presentation and practical, they will be awarded a certificate with Distinction.  This means that for some modules, no one has achieved this level, and for other modules there may be one or two who earn this top honor. From what I observed, I would say these students demonstrated anatomical and clinical anatomical knowledge equal to someone who can teach at university level.

I should also elaborate on the collegiality that I witnessed.  The faculty made themselves accessible and everyone was treated as equals.  This environment extended outside the dissection lab as faculty and students shared their dorm facilities as well as everyone going out for dinner together.   This allowed everyone to get to know each other’s personal lives as well as their professional experiences.  Plus, this allowed for curious minds to ask additional questions about anatomy and sometimes concerns about their teaching situations.  All in all, the week became a very valuable learning experience for all, including the faculty.  I know I learned a lot from just listening to the issues and concerns at other institutions, whether it was in the States or in other areas of the world.

Professor Bob Hutchins
American Association of Anatomists