A social media thread I ran across recently laments that the lymphatic system is an undervalued and undertaught topic in the anatomy and physiology curriculum. That puzzles me. Admittedly, I don't bring up the lymphatic system a lot in my day-to-day ...
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Patton Anatomy & Physiology

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The Lymphatic System Deserves Its Own Chapter

 A social media thread I ran across recently laments that the lymphatic system is an undervalued and undertaught topic in the anatomy and physiology curriculum. That puzzles me.

Admittedly, I don't bring up the lymphatic system a lot in my day-to-day conversations. Not even in chats with other A&P enthusiasts. But it does come up sometimes in conversations about teaching or learning A&P. And when it does, I think the usual reaction involves some variety of love for the lymphatic system. So I'm puzzled.

In our Patton Anatomy & Physiology textbook, the lymphatic system certainly gets the love and attention it deserves. In fact, we feel that it deserves its own chapter! Unlike most A&P textbooks, Patton Anatomy & Physiology has a separate Lymphatic System chapter that follows Blood, Heart, Blood Vessels, and Circulation of Blood chapters and precedes the chapters Innate Immunity, Adaptive Immunity, and Stress.

That placement of the chapter puts it in exactly that spot in the story where we want it. That is, our story of the lymphatic system picks up the story of circulation begun in the Circulation of Blood chapter by explaining where the excess fluid left out of venous return goes. It goes back to the bloodstream via an elegant lymphatic drainage system. 

But wait! There's more! That fluid being returned to the bloodstream from the tissues is filtered in the lymph nodes before joining the blood supply. Which then allows us to introduce the concept of immunity and the lymphatic system's key role as a partner in the immune system. 

The next chapters Innate Immunity and Adaptive Immunity then pick up that part of the story after the Lymphatic System chapter. Then, after all those parts of the story set the final pieces needed, the Stress chapter integrates diverse concepts learned in previous chapters into a big picture of how our body deals with the world.

Although that social media thread lamenting that the lymphatic system is undervalued and undertaught puzzles me on one level, I wholeheartedly agree that the lymphatic system deserves any love we do give it. In the eleventh edition of Patton Anatomy & Physiology, available November 2021, we've added a bit more love by adding a brief description of the emerging concept of the glymphatic system. And, in our usual style, we generally refined and clarified our story of the amazing lymphatic system.

Check out the heavily illustrated story of the lymphatic system in Patton Anatomy & Physiology. I think you'll agree that we really do show this system some love.


Diverse Representation in Anatomy & Physiology

From the earliest days of my involvement with the Anatomy & Physiology textbook, I've strived to ensure that the representation of people in the illustration program, the chapter narratives, the examples and cases presented, reflects the diversity of humanity. 

My publisher has fully supported my (rather expensive) requests for creating new artwork and shooting new photographs. They have also supported my chapter revisions and have helped me find and revise passages that need improvement.

Why is this important? 

Our students—my readers and users of the textbook—must see themselves and their lived experiences reflected in this textbook and other learning materials. If they cannot, then it's difficult for them to see themselves fully accepted as part of the humanity that we explore in the anatomy and physiology course. This perceived lack of acceptance is a very real barrier to learning. When they cannot easily see themselves as part of the world of A&P, then it's also a barrier for students as they pursue their career path. 

Diverse representation in Anatomy & Physiology is also important because students must develop an understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of the normal variation and diversity among the human population if they are to be successful as healthcare and athletic professionals. 

The seventh edition of Anatomy & Physiology marked the moment when diverse and inclusive representation became a goal of every revision cycle. In the tenth edition, we were able to significantly diversify our photo collection and anatomical illustrations. 

For example, in the tenth edition, we were among the first to use Black female subjects for the key illustrations of human musculature—overturning centuries of white males serving that role.

Diversity and inclusion has been a primary goal of the upcoming eleventh edition of Anatomy & Physiology, as well. As we review our page proofs and make our final tweaks, we continue our strong effort to make our textbook one of the most inclusive science textbooks on the market.

However, as much as we have made admirable progress and maintained our lead in this area, we still have a long way to go. It's a daunting task. And the path is not always clear. The resources are not always available. Our awareness is still expanding. Nonetheless, I think you'll be pleased with the new edition when it is published later this year. 

And I hope you'll join us in pointing out where we've made good progress and where we still need to improve. We're in this together.

Stress Deserves Its Own Chapter

One of the advantages of organizing anatomy and physiology concepts into short, modular chapters is that it gives us more flexibility in teaching. It also permits us to focus on important topics that are often buried within a large chapter that covers many subtopics.  Taking this advantage, Anatomy & Physiology puts the clinically important concepts of stress into a single, independent chapter.

The concepts of stress interconnect with concepts of neuroscience, endocrinology, immunology, and many others—covered in diverse chapters of a textbook and diverse modules of an A&P course. Putting the core concepts of stress into its own independent chapter means that the instructor has more flexibility in where they place in their own course structure—into their own unique telling of the story of the human body.

Our book was the first A&P textbook to have an independent stress chapter. Since its introduction, we've been keeping the content up to date and relevant to student learning—and to the clinical applications of stress they'll be making in their professional courses and careers. 

More recently, we enlisted the advice of the late Dr. Bruce McEwen, an icon of the modern concepts of human stress and it's real-life implications. Contributing author Dr. Peggie Williamson and I used Bruce's advice and his generous stack of resources to give our stress chapter a major refresh and update. You will find that the engaging story-of-stress approach remains, but with the more recent parts of that story reflected with greater clarity and relevance.

We need not let the concepts of stress be stressors themselves in our teaching and learning. Using the stress chapter in Anatomy & Physiologya reader favorite—can help us all better understand the pivotal role stress can have in wellness and disease.

Your Modular Anatomy & Physiology Textbook

Ever dreamed of rearranging the order of topics in your course. That is, have you ever wanted to shift the order of topics as they are presented in your textbook to fit the way you tell your story of the human body? Without the obstacles of assigning a half-chapter here and the other half-chapter there—and possibly causing some students to get a bit lost?

Yeah, me too. That's why I've worked hard to move away from the gigantic-chapter model we see in most A&P textbooks to the modular model in our Anatomy & Physiology textbook. Instead of the usual 20-something large chapters commonly seen, our textbook has 48 chapters—but about the same number of pages as all the others. That is, those gigantic chapters have been broken down into smaller bits.

Besides the advantage of making our reading assignments less intimidating for students, the arrangement of concepts in smaller chapters also means that it is far easier for any instructor to move things around a bit to better suit their particular telling of the A&P story. 

For example, because the introduction to homeostasis is its own short chapter, faculty have the choice to move it's place in the course to the very beginning—before all those directional terms and cavities, and so forth Or one could move it a bit later in the course, after the foundational chemistry, cell, and tissue coverage to just prior to beginning covering the first body system. 

The short stress chapter could be moved earlier or later in the course, without having to separate it out of another larger chapter that covers other topics as well. 

One could even decide to have students learn the appendicular skeleton first, before getting to that intimidating skull and vertebral column. 

If you've not looked at the Patton Anatomy & Physiology text in a while, this might be a good time to check it out and think about it's modular structure may be a better fit for your A&P course.

You may want to learn more about the story of our smaller chapters by reading these brief posts:

Pandemic Scramble: Keeping It Simple

In my opinion, the big mistake that professors commonly make when moving an on-campus course to remote teaching is to make things more complicated than they need to be. That unnecessary complexity stems from the idea that one must take their entire course, including every element and detail, and move it more or less "as is" to an online environment. I think we get much better outcomes if we strive to keep it simple.

First, "remote" need not always be "online." There are a lot of learning opportunities to be had with reading and retrieval practice assignments from the Patton Anatomy & Physiology textbook. Students have invested a lot in acquiring this resource and a large team has worked together to make it an effective learning tool. Now's a great time to do better by our students by helping them engage fully in both reading and raiding their textbook. 

Second, now is a great time to revisit our learning outcomes and compare those to our course design. Most of us keep adding more expected outcomes, and therefore more content, to our courses over the years. As we consider various learning activities, we often add them rather than replace existing activities. Our course becomes bloated, complex, and heavier than it needs to be. So my advice is to prune, prune, prune to the main outcomes—the truly essential concepts—of our A&P course. Then, and only then, are we ready to move to remote teaching.

Third, rather than simply digitize our course components—recording lectures, converting tests and quizzes to online formats, etc.—we should rethink our course design. I suggest trimming back on what we are telling and showing showing students and rely more on their own discovery. And resisting the urge to use every last one of the cool toys that our instructional designers are helping us to discover.

What I mean by that is focusing our recorded lectures on the hard-to-understand "pain points" of A&P. And even then, we should consider trimming our narrative down to half or less of that 50-minute time block that we are used to. Then taking those shorter lectures and chunking them into even smaller, bite-sized pieces.

We can also substitute those occasional, mind-bending summative tests with frequent, low-stakes formative tests by using the our learning management system's online quizzing engine. This leverages the learning benefits of retrieval practice by shifting the work of learning to the student—where it belongs. This approach also makes light work of learning, thus avoiding a burdensome load during this time of stress and uncertainty.

To learn more about these suggestions and more, watch my video presentation Simple Ideas for Moving to Remote Learning or listen to an audio version from my podcast.



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