The American Association for Anatomy Honors Dr. Mark Teaford

Professor Teaford Recognized with the Henry Gray Distinguished Educator Award

An icon of excellence in the education of anatomy, Dr. Mark Teaford, Professor and Vice Chair of Basic Sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, is this year’s recipient of the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) Henry Gray Distinguished Educator Award. 

In his nomination, Dr. Teaford was recognized as the kind of experienced, open-minded, and dedicated anatomy educator who can serve as a model for the rest of us in the field.

Dr. Mark Teaford

"He has been a leader in anatomy education and curricular reform and design at three institutions," it continued. "Each of these institutions sought his expertise because they recognize his knowledge, creativity, and skill in developing effective anatomy educational programs for students in the health professions."

As this is AAA’s highest award for anatomy education, Dr. Teaford will be honored in April at the annual meeting of the American Association for Anatomy in San Diego.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Dr. Teaford. “When they called, I honestly thought they were going to ask me to serve on the nominations committee. It’s one of those awards that you never think about winning…If you were to try and plan to get it, you probably never could.” 

An anthropologist and anatomist by training, Dr. Teaford is a specialist in what the wear on teeth can reveal about a creature’s diet.

With a career in higher education that spans for close to 40 years, Dr. Teaford said that a lot has changed in the teaching of anatomy since the 1980s. For instance, dramatic improvements in medical imaging and the easy access of digital storage allows for the creation of digital models of the body that can be viewed from any point of view. 

“Ideally you want (students) to be able to think in 3D, and this is an immense help,” he said.

But there is no replacement for time in the anatomy lab, Dr. Teaford reflected. Where educational software still generally presents a single idealized version of anatomy, working with cadavers gives students an appreciation of what makes each of us so unique. 

“It is an incredible gift to be able to work with the human body, because you can’t anticipate whether someone has had two full knee replacements or major heart surgery, not to mention the normal individual differences in things like muscle attachments and branching pathways of vessels,” said Dr. Teaford.

When asked about his teaching approach, Dr. Teaford stressed the importance of using a hybrid curriculum to engage every kind of student.

“In a class this size, there are innumerable learning styles, and we need to provide as many opportunities as possible for each of them. That means having some traditional lectures and labs, but also online materials and active learning sessions,” said Dr. Teaford. “To help with this, we also frame everything in a team-based learning approach where students work with their peers, much as they will be doing throughout their careers. The goal is to help them develop the competencies, like professionalism, that will be so important for them in the future.”