A pipeline for physicians

Dr. Noel Boaz, president of the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine, shows off computer anatomy software in the center’s new Laboratory of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy during an open house Friday at 30 W. Main St. The lab will host a class

September 3, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

With three students signed and up more than a week still left to recruit, a Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) official said Friday he expects a class in Human Gross Anatomy I will be offered starting Sept. 10.

Steve Branch, PHCC’s dean of science, technology, engineering and math, said, “We really want to get this rolling.”

Noel T. Boaz, M.D., Ph.D., said the class could be offered with as few as four students at the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine’s (ICSM) new Laboratory of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy at 30 W. Main St. Twenty to 25 people attended the lab’s open house Thursday and a smaller number attended its open house Friday, said Boaz, who is founder and president of ICSM and director of the lab.

Branch said the Bio 151 - Human Gross Anatomy I was added to the PHCC course schedule “way after” the schedule came out, and many students already had planned their courses. “We anticipated a small enrollment.”

According to Branch and Boaz, the course is part of a recently approved (and pioneering) medical sciences specialization associate degree program at PHCC initiated to serve as a pipeline for students to get prepared for medical school or another professional school such as veterinary medicine or dental school.

Boaz said students can take dual enrollment courses in high school, complete the medical specialization associate degree program at PHCC, then enroll in the planned four-year College of Henricopolis School of Medicine, thereby completing a premed and medical school education in six years rather than the traditional eight years in the United States.

He said this six-year model is used in a number of places throughout the world.

Alternatively, students completing the two-year medical sciences specialization associate degree program at PHCC could transfer to a four-year college, he said.

Here’s part of a course description of Bio 151 - Human Gross Anatomy I: “introduces students to human anatomy through dissection of a cadaver; ... includes dissection of back, chest and abdominal muscles, spinal cord structures and upper and lower limb structures.”

Human Gross Anatomy II includes dissection of thoracic, abdomino-pelvic and cranial cavities, according the state community college system website.

The lab has about 1,700 square feet of space, including office and lab space. It has three dissecting tables, with computers and dissection software.

Boaz said the lab will use inquiry-based learning, which involves critical thinking, problem solving and hands-on or active learning. Doing that, students tend to more fully understand what they learn, why it’s important for them to learn it and how they can use it — more so than through memorization only, he said. Students will need to understand concepts and vocabulary. There will be no lecturing, but students can read Boaz’s lectures or PowerPoint presentations, he said.

Here’s an example of how the class will work:

Students will be asked to dissect a cadaver and find structures (tissues, muscles, organs or other parts of an organism). A second level of questions will help determine if students remember what they found. A third level of questions will help students learn such things as why they need to examine particular parts of the body and what diseases or illnesses can be detected by listening there with a stethoscope.

 While dissecting cadavers, students also will use computers at the dissection tables, computers that have software enabling them to see cross-sectional CAT scan, MRI and ultrasound images of the body, as well as to access research and other educational materials. Dissections will be displayed on a large wall screen and on the dissection table computers, Boaz said.

“You don’t want someone operating on you who doesn’t understand the three-dimensional abdominal viscera (internal organs),” he said of the need for students to dissect cadavers.

Starting a pipeline for a six-year premed/medical school education program in this area is “very significant,” he said. It could save students two years of educational expenses (and a lot of debt), enable more students to study medicine and help repair disparities in historically underserved populations, such as blacks. Native Americans, Hispanics and rural residents, he said.

Continuing-medical-education workshops for practicing doctors also will be taught in the lab, Boaz said. He added that doctors in Virginia have to receive 20 hours of continuing education a year.

The lab also has office space for Richard Harrington, Ph.D., M.Sc., the director for ICSM’s Center for Forensic Science and Human Rights and professor of anthropology, Boaz said.

Boaz also said if it receives accreditation, the four-year College of Henricopolis School of Medicine could open as early as fall 2015 with 75-150 students. The medical school already has been preaccredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). “We fully expect to get it (accreditation),” he said. “Things are moving fast with us.”

Plans are for the medical school to open in the building donated by Dr. Mervyn and Virginia King at 62-66 Fayette Street and for a clinical sciences building to open in the future, according to Boaz and a Bulletin article.

Boaz estimates the cost of starting the medical school at $18 million to $20 million. College of Henricopolis School of Medicine, Ltd. was incorporated in July according to Boaz and the State Corporation Commission. Funding for the medical school has been, is or will be sought through such things as grants, stock sales and other fund raising, he said.

The Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine are an aggregate of nonprofit educational, research, and charitable institutions based in Martinsville, according to the ICSM website.

Paris Pavlakis, Ph.D., has been named the director of the International Institute for Human Evolutionary Research and professor of evolutionary biology for ICSM, and Dr. Scott Obenshain has been named the director of ICSM’s Center for Biomedical Education, according to Boaz and ICSM’s website.


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