Mastering Anatomy Program and Student Anatomy Atlas Project

By Michael Bodeen, MHPE
Faculty, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Anatomy student with a diagram

Becoming a healthcare provider can be very challenging, with academic demands exceeding many other programs. To be competitive for consideration to a medical or dental graduate school requires internal drive, focus, academic success, good entrance exam test scores, experience, a bit of good luck – and one might think a touch of divine intervention.

The Mastering Anatomy Program (MAP) and the Student Anatomy Atlas Project (a part of the Research and Design Program (RDP) at Grand Canyon University) were designed specifically to prepare students for graduate healthcare education. There are a multitude of students engaged with the projects, with assignments ranging from dissection, photography, anatomical art, and histology to pathology and clinical skills development. The project is so large it even requires a logistics team to facilitate communication between the groups and teach leadership skills!

The following student introductions and comments are just a small sample of those involved with the project.

Getting involved Early in a Research Group

Kaylor Kawaihae is a freshman at Grand Canyon University majoring in premedical biology. He was recently accepted into the Student Anatomy Atlas Project and has also been accepted into the Mastering Anatomy Program. He explained, “After the two weeks I have been here, I have met many people in this program, and they are very nice and very helpful to me. A lot of them are in the same program as I am and have more experience.”

He has demonstrated initiative and has been given gradual study assignments such as learning bones and assisting an older member with a poster dealing with a normal variant of the aortic arch. He is also working with the special projects group in order to be introduced to human dissection.

Kawaihae said, “This program seems to be like one big family, where everybody helps each other out and I’m truly happy to be a part of this family. This program will help me succeed in my career path and help me achieve the goals I set for myself. Professor Bodeen and many other of my fellow classmates inspire me to give my best efforts in what I do because they push me to my limits and they see potential in me, which has built my confidence up.”

He desires to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Pursuing Opportunities for Mentorship

An important part of the MAP and RDP atlas project is student mentoring. Egos and competition must be left at the door prior entering the lab. “When I first came into the lab, I felt so intimidated and lost,” explained student Hannah McCulley. “I shuffled through all the possible biology majors and lacked direction. Through guidance and other people’s encouragement, I was able to pinpoint a location in the vast arena of career paths that I could run towards with full speeds. I am so grateful that I am surrounded by a passionate and caring community in the lab, and I do not think I would be where I am if it weren’t for mentoring and the kindness of others.”

It is important that each member foster a sense of respect for others and for the cadaveric gift as this is an opportunity. God is ultimately in charge and human leadership is just service to others.

Setting Realistic Expectations

“In my first conversation with Professor Bodeen, I was given a crash course of the expectations for my performance in the MAP and Student Anatomy Atlas Project programs,” said student Joshua Midthun. “Between having to chart everything you did while dissecting a cadaver to being tested on your expertise in the assigned region you dissected, this is certainly no easy program to be involved in. I am being pushed and challenged in ways I never thought I would at the undergraduate level, and I know that it is preparing me well for my goal of working in medicine.

“Anatomy and physiology is one of my favorite subjects to learn about,” he continued, “so the opportunity to work through actual cadavers to learn all of the structures the human body possesses is extraordinary to me. I am continually impressed by the resources and the efficiency displayed in this program. There are more cadavers at GCU than I have ever heard of for an undergraduate university. The longer you are here, the more responsibility you have. The senior-most students in the program teach and guide new entrants. I am very excited to be at GCU because I will actually be able to start applying what I learned in my previous anatomy courses.”

Growing in Responsibility

As a student progresses with their anatomical knowledge, self-study and dissection skills, they are gradually given increased responsibility in the laboratory. The responsibility is earned. Bryan Fong and Catlin Olson are remarkable students. Both have almost completed a full dissection of a cadaver themselves and have taken on initial teaching and mentoring responsibilities within the lab.

“The Student Anatomy Atlas Project is doing more than just providing an avenue for students to get published,” Fong said. “Having been part of this project for the past three semesters, I have seen a community build itself around the dissection lab in the STEM building. The project helps foster fruitful relationships between participating students. This is most apparent in the Mastering Anatomy Program (MAP) that was created to push students towards a graduate level of understanding of anatomy and physiology.

“The program encourages students to take on a self-directed approach to learning with the more experienced students mentoring those freshly inducted. As one of the leads in the dissection portion of the RDP, I have been able to share my experiences with my peers, guiding them in both dissection and in achieving a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology. The MAP program has helped me make many lasting friendships with my peers, given me the opportunity to be a mentor and leader and, most importantly, allowed me to be of service to the healthcare community here at GCU. Overall, MAP and the SAAP have given me more than I would have ever expected from my college life so far and will definitely prepare me well for my professional career.”

If you would like to know more about Grand Canyon University and its Research and Design Program, please visit the College of Science, Engineering and Technology or contact a university counselor by using the Request More Information button on this page.

More About Michael:

Michael Bodeen has attended the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Biomedical Sciences at Midwestern University. He has a significant background in cadaver-based anatomy and has taught anatomy and physiology for the last 12 years. He is a full-time instructor at Grand Canyon University and leads the cadaver program. He has a passion for education and enjoys creating opportunities for students.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.