Skip to main content

Anatomy Educators Gather for First-Ever Anatomy Education Research Institute

AERI 2017

Participants of Anatomy Education Research Institute, Bloomington, July 10-14, 2017

By James J. Brokaw, PhD
Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, IU School of Medicine—Indianapolis
Polly R. Husmann, PhD
Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, IU School of Medicine—Bloomington
Valerie Dean O’Loughlin, PhD
Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, IU School of Medicine—Bloomington

Nearly 70 anatomists from 8 countries and 23 U.S. states gathered in Bloomington July 10-14 to attend the inaugural Anatomy Education Research Institute (AERI) hosted by faculty of the IU School of Medicine. Anatomy faculty members and conference organizers Valerie O’Loughlin, PhD, Polly Husmann, PhD, and Jim Brokaw, PhD, designed AERI specifically for anatomy educators that had little or no experience with educational research, but were strongly committed to moving in that direction for their own professional development and to advance evidence-based anatomy pedagogy at their home institutions. Funding for AERI 2017 was provided by an Innovations Grant from the American Association of Anatomists.

During the intensive 5-day program, participants learned about innovative teaching pedagogies, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and effective ways to conduct rigorous educational research. The 12 plenary sessions and 15 concurrent workshops covered a diverse range of educational research topics, with each day building on the topics covered the previous day.  Some of the key topics included:

  • Developing educational research ideas
  • Searching the educational literature
  • Obtaining IRB approval
  • Designing educational research studies
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Survey design
  • Publishing educational research
  • Getting recognized and promoted for your educational research
  • Overcoming roadblocks to educational research

AERI also provided significant face-to-face time and opportunity for discussion, collaboration, and networking among participants and field leaders.  Over the course of the week, the participants engaged in 5 round-table discussions, in which novices were teamed with nationally known experts in medical education research.  In this way, the “mentors” could guide their “mentees” in developing their ideas for educational scholarship that could be implemented back home.  All mentors and mentees were also invited to participate in discussions of current topics in anatomy educational research and additional networking opportunities at the end of each day.

At the conclusion of AERI, participants left with at least one well-planned educational research proposal and a plethora of new resources and connections with which to pursue them. Preliminary feedback has been incredibly positive with networking, collaborative atmosphere, and high-quality information among the most oft cited benefits of the institute.  While mildly exhausting, all involved truly seem to have gained greatly from this experience. The conference co-organizers plan to assess the immediate, short-term and long-term impacts of AERI, and will present their results at future medical education meetings.  Co-organizers are also exploring the possibility of offering another AERI in the next few years.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Default Author Avatar IUSM Logo

James Brokaw

Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology

James J. Brokaw received his B.S. and M.A. degrees in biology from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1975 and 1978, respectively, and in 1983 he received his Ph.D. degree in anatomy from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, he joined the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at IUSM in 1987. He received his M.P.H. degree from Saint Louis University in 2000. Dr. Brokaw has served in several educational leadership roles at IUSM, including Histology Course Director (1987-2002), Assistant to Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs (2002-2012), Associate Dean for Admissions (2009-2014), Director of the IU Center for Anatomical Sciences Education (2012-2018), and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (2014-2018). From 2008 to 2018, he directed a specialized Ph.D. program in anatomy and cell biology for students seeking careers in anatomical teaching and medical education research.