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Studies & Degrees in Anatomy

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Anatomy is largely known as the branch of biology dealing with the structures of animals. This could either be Zootomy, or the study of lower creatures and animals, or Human Anatomy, which is for most cases, the more important and sought after branch. It is knowledge of the structures, form, composition, size, position and relations of the body parts with each other. Human Anatomy is a vast and complex subject that there are only a few professionals in this area of study. To gain knowledge and expertise in human anatomy requires one to undergo years of training and observation, dissection and inspection of cadavers and an equal amount of knowledge in palpation for live subjects. Every landmark and structure in the body is considered and its relation to other parts, most especially in cases of emergency. Human anatomy is a required area of study and mastery for medical students or pre-medical students and doctors. In the practice of their profession, a mere miscalculation or mistake in identifying the location, position and function of a structure could cost them their license or their patient. Every detail in Human anatomy must be exact from the most superficial to the deepest area. Human Anatomy is divided into two branches: Gross Anatomy and Microscopic Anatomy. Gross Anatomy is the study of the entire human body through what can be seen by the naked eye, while Microscopic Anatomy is the study of the human body with the aid of microscopes, reaching the tissue and cell levels or studies known as histology and cytology respectively.

Anatomy had its beginnings from the 5th – 4th century BC where it was an area of study that triggered the curiosity of many Greek scientists. The first scientist to be known for using dissection in his studies and researches is Alcmaeon. His research was not focused on anatomy itself as he was more interested on the roots of human intelligence. But through his works in dissection, the first discoveries were made in the field of human anatomy. In the early 3rd century BC Herophilus and Erasistratus of Alexandria made the first scientific studies directed to uncover the working and structure of human anatomy. Throughout the centuries many scientists devoted their time to discover more and more of the human body and its composition. The invention of the microscope paved way for the understanding of the deeper structures lying in the body and the discovery of pathways in the body connecting each organ to another. By the 1830’s great milestones were established in the field of microscopic anatomy including cell structures, tissue organization and the like. In 1953, a deeper study of microscopic anatomy revealed the structure of DNA which has unlocked so much knowledge on human disease and cures since the introduction of genetics.

Anatomy is widely studied by all students involved in the medical profession such as nurses, physical therapists, undergraduate medicine students, dentists, paramedics, radiologist and much more. This study is complement to physiology and biochemistry since a deeper understanding can be obtained when the whole function of the human body is reviewed in detail.

The history of the study of human anatomy can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian civilization. In fact, the earliest evidences that humans studied anatomy was found in an ancient Egyptian papyrus dated 1600 BC. In this treatise was a list of the recognized parts during that time such as the heart and its vessels, liver, spleen, kidneys, hypothalamus, uterus, and bladder. Another treatise, called the Ebers papyrus and dated 1550 BC, noted the heart including its vessels were the center of the blood supply. The knowledge recorded in the past was improved during the 5th and 4th centuries by Greek physicians who used animal cadavers to study the inner parts of the human body.

Hippocrates, a Greek physician, was the first to demonstrate the most basic knowledge on musculoskeletal structure and was the first to discover the tricuspid valve of the heart which he recorded on his treatise On the Heart. Other Greek physicians like Aristotle also performed numerous dissections on animal cadavers; their knowledge improved the recorded difference between the arteries and the veins, and the relationship between the different organs. It was only during the late 4th century BC that human cadavers were used for dissection. Two physicians, Herophilos and Erasistrasus, were the first to perform a vivisection or live dissection on criminals under the observation of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Their findings greatly improved the accuracy of the knowledge in anatomy and became the first step to greater improvements as time passed.

With the rise of technology, sciences like evolutionary biology, molecular biology, and endocrinology emerged. These helped the physicians in understanding the human body more accurately. The focus of the study of anatomy shifted from understanding the inner works of the human body to the understanding of the development, evolution, and function of anatomical features.

As a field of study, Anatomy is perfect for students who are interested in learning and understanding the functions of the human’s inner body. Students will learn about the different systems such as digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, integumentary, reproductive, lymphatic and immune, endocrine, nervous, urinary, skeletal, and muscular systems. They will be required to take biology courses that will help them learn about tissue structures, cellular and structural components of the body. Chemistry courses are also required to help them learn about the different chemical functions and reactions inside a human body such as protein/enzyme production, synthesis reactions, mitoses, meiosis, diffusion, and osmosis. Students will also learn about the different common elements present in the human body, and they will be able to differentiate between carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Courses in other sciences such as cell biology and histology, structural biology, regional and gross anatomy, molecular mechanics, endocrinology, secretory dynamics, embryology, and neuroanatomy are also required.

For graduates who have in-depth knowledge on human Anatomy can find career opportunities in education as post-secondary biological science teachers, in research as biological scientist, and in medicine as medical scientist and natural sciences managers.

Job positions for Anatomy:

Prosthetic Designer-Researcher

As an Anatomist, one can work as a prosthetic designer and prosthetic researcher for private companies and/or manufacturing laboratories. Prosthesis is the artificial replacement of a missing body part due to a disease or an accident. Designing prosthesis is more than just creativity, for the most part, it requires an in depth knowledge of gross anatomy, making sure that every part or extremity in the body is learned in detail. An Anatomist may work as the sole designer of prosthetics or may work hand in hand with a team of fellow anatomists or designers and researchers to create innovations and improvements on the current trends in prosthesis making. It is involved in the field of biomechatronics, or the science of fusing mechanical devices with human muscle and tissues. A Master’s degree or Doctoral degree in anatomy is sufficient to make one credible as a consulting Anatomist in prosthetic projects for clients.

By understanding the mechanism, composition, structure and functions of body parts, anatomists are able to copy the basic make-up of a part that needs to be replaced. The knowledge in muscle insertions and actions are critical, since the limb must be designed in such a way that the patient or client is still able to move the whole affected segment as one and in unison. The artificial limb must be designed to be move under the full control of the patient and it must follow the ambulation rhythm of the body it is designated to fit. Anatomists are usually educated in related fields such as kinesiology, which deals with the movement of the body. By understanding this, anatomists who design prosthesis are also able to measure the exact dimensions of artificial limbs. They are also able to calculate the proper weight of the prosthesis, in relation to the whole body weight.

The primary job of Anatomists in prosthesis making is to be able to make the artificial limb as realistic as possible to the real part that was removed. Anatomists involved in this field usually work with engineers and design experts and they should be able to coordinate very well and explain their complex ideas and proposals to the members of the team to be able to generate the appropriate make of an artificial limb. Anatomists also work with physicians in talking to the patients and clients about the mechanics of wearing prosthesis, and the initial adaptation of the body. Certain adjustments in the body that patients must make are also researched by the anatomists to ensure the comfort of the person who will receive the prosthesis.

A lot of people are willing to pay great sums of money for a first- class prosthesis, since prosthesis is worn permanently for those who purchase them. Anatomists who prefer to work as prosthesis designers are hired by large prosthesis companies and are usually very well compensated. It is also a favourable career because the trends in prosthesis making are now being developed and the demand for artificial limbs are now increasing.

Anatomy Professor

In the field of Anatomy, one can work as an educator in schools, colleges and universities. The usual qualification is a degree in anatomy, biology or its equivalent followed by a Master’s or Doctorate degree accompanied by mastery of the subject both in theory and application. As educator, anatomists in this field also work as researchers and work in laboratories and focus on the human form and function. As an educator, anatomists train students in professions that require a mastery of this subject, such as medicine, nurses, dentists, therapists, etc. It is the duty of the professor to hone the skills of the pupils in palpation and localization of important anatomical landmarks, identification of structures and functions in the body, and the relation of each body part from the whole or to another system. This involves training the students to master the theory behind human anatomy as well as the hands-on or practical application of these theories. The field of anatomy is very broad, requiring educators in anatomy to have some knowledge in the other essential branches of anatomy such as embryology, human development, neurology, pathology, genetics and the like.

To qualify as an educator of anatomy, an advanced degree is usually required. In the tertiary level, science courses like biology, chemistry, pre-medicine and other are ideal majors. After college, a master’s degree in anatomy would further boost your career and land you occupations on teaching and researching in the field of anatomy. For a teaching position in universities, a doctoral degree is usually required. Even after studies, anatomists continue to study the new discoveries and developments in their field. Anatomists that hold a doctoral degree are more qualified to advance to positions like assistant, associate and full professor or a director for research in a particular university or educational institutions. Some anatomists with doctoral degrees also assume administrative work, most especially in schools and research facilities, where they head projects and research work aiming for new discoveries in anatomy. Educators also publish their works in scientific and medical journals when it is deemed as an importance discovery.

The working environment of educators in anatomy is usually the general surrounding of any professor in a college or university, involving class schedules, lab sessions and practical examinations. Some of them also work in laboratories for long hours depending on the specific task they aim to accomplish. Anatomists often spend their time creating and checking examinations, researching, attending meetings, publishing their material and continuously studying to keep themselves updated with the current developments in their field. Educators in anatomy must be able to work alone or with a group of other professors or researchers. To be able to teach students, they must be able to explain complicated subject matter and concepts in simple, understandable terms. They should be able to explain their findings and researches to their students and colleagues.

In the United States of America, the job outlook for anatomists with doctoral degrees is good through the year 2014 with a high average salary.