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Anatomy for Change program featured in Perspectives newsletter

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 - 16:45

Anatomy for Change is a program founded by former Biology undergraduates, Abdullah Bhurgri (BS, Biology, 2021) and Rhonda Osman (BS, Biology, 2022). The program provides opportunities for students underrepresented in healthcare careers to spend time in an anatomy lab. The hope is that by experiencing an anatomy lab and working through medical case studies, the students will gain confidence in pursuing careers in healthcare. The program is faculty sponsored by Biology Associate Teaching Professor Casey Self and was recently featured in a Perspectives newsletter article.

Both Bhurgri and Osman will begin medical school at the UW in July. They will hand over the coordination of Anatomy for Change to new coordinators, Beatrice Asomaning (BS, Biology, 2023) and Emily Buak (BS, Biology, 2023).

Congratulations, all!

Excerpt from Perspectives:

Abdullah Bhurgri and Rhonda Osman dreamed of becoming doctors since childhood. Osman joined the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) as a UW undergraduate; both Osman and Bhurgri secured spots in BIOL 310: Survey of Human Anatomy, an undergraduate course for biology majors.

“Anatomy provides the most hands-on medical experience an undergraduate can have within biology,” says Osman (BS, Biology, 2022).

That is particularly true at the UW, where undergraduates get to work with human cadavers, referred to as donors — an opportunity not available to undergrads at many US schools.

For Bhurgri (BS, Biology, 2021), that anatomy class was a turning point. He had previously struggled to imagine himself as a doctor due to a lack of representation in his community. “BIOL 310 was the first time that my journey truly clicked for me,” he says. “It was such a formative experience for both Rhonda and me. Working with the donors in the anatomy lab provided us with a unique and humbling experience that truly affirmed us in our pursuit of healthcare.”

Osman and Bhurgri thought other students underrepresented in healthcare fields would also benefit from an anatomy experience, but the undergraduate anatomy course is limited to a small number of majors and fills within minutes. That led them to co-found Anatomy for Change, a program that provides anatomy workshops for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and first-generation students, as well as students from other underresourced communities. The hope is that by experiencing an anatomy lab and working through medical case studies, the students will gain confidence in pursuing careers in healthcare.

Though Bhurgri and Osman had a vision for Anatomy for Change, they needed a faculty sponsor to help realize that vision. Bhurgri, who had served as a peer facilitator for BIOL 310, presented the idea to instructor Casey Self, associate teaching professor in the Department of Biology.

“Abdullah came to me with a PowerPoint presentation,” Self recalls. “He was really worried I was going to say ‘no.’ Instead I told him I’d been wanting to do something like this forever. I was a McNair Scholar and EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) first-generation college student, so I have strong feelings about expanding the experiences available to students like me. I just didn’t have the time to organize something myself. I loved that this program would be student driven.”

With Self on board, Osman and Bhurgri began planning their first Anatomy for Change workshop, drawing inspiration from the team-based learning exercises that Self incorporated into her course. A UW Diversity and Inclusion Seed Grant  helped compensate Osman and Bhurgri for their efforts.

The pair developed a two-hour workshop in which participants rotate through eight “stations” focusing on different regions of the body. Knowledgeable volunteers — including UW medical students and peer facilitators — oversee the stations. After providing a brief anatomy lesson specific to that station, the volunteers present a hypothetical health problem to the participants, sometimes sharing CT scans or x-rays. Then, using what they’ve just learned, the students predict outcomes for the “patient” and suggest additional diagnostic tests that might be helpful.

“We use little snippets of the curriculum I designed for the anatomy course, modified to be accessible for students not majoring in biology,” says Self. “We try to really engage the participants in how anatomical knowledge is not just memorization. It is a thought process. It’s important to empower students with the idea that they can think about anatomy, they don’t just have to memorize anatomy.”

Read the full article in Perspectives.

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