Making the GCASE

OUWB faculty form global network of anatomical science educators

An image of a poster on GCASE being presented

Inaya Hajj Hussein, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, presented a poster on GCASE during OUWB's Medical Education Week. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

OUWB, Oakland University, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

icon of a calendarJuly 6, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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When the COVID-19 pandemic dealt everyone lemons, a cohort of OUWB faculty decided to make lemonade — in form of an international network of anatomical science educators that has big plans.

The Global Community of Anatomical Science Educators (GCASE) is the brainchild of Inaya Hajj Hussein, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies.

The group already has nearly 30 members from around the world, expects to soon be accepted into the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists, is editing a special issue of The Journal of Academic Development and Education, and hopes to eventually hold a conference.

In May, a poster about GCASE — “Creating a Global Community During COVID-19 Pandemic: Bringing Educators Together” — was named 2022 OUWB Medical Education Week Educational Innovation Winning Poster. The poster was created by Hajj Hussein with eight other faculty from OUWB’s Department of Foundational Medical Studies.*

“This was really one of the silver linings that came out of COVID,” says Hajj Hussein with a smile. “We often say OUWB is a community serving other communities…now we are serving a global community.”

First-of-its-kind organization

According to Hajj Hussein, the origin of GCASE can be traced to the Anatomical Sciences Scholarly Interest Group at OUWB.

When everything went virtual in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group decided to establish “a first of its kind international community of like-minded anatomical science educators.”

Anatomy faculty from OUWB’s Department of Foundational Medical Studies recruited members from their personal international networks. Before long, a group of nearly 30 from five continents (North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia) were meeting once a month via Zoom.

Hajj Hussein says meetings generally consist of networking and/or discussion about world events before addressing official agenda items, such as The Journal of Academic Development and Education project. One of the largest GCASE projects currently is the collecting of data on how institutions implement diverse, asynchronous approaches in teaching learning the anatomical sciences, both pre- and post-pandemic.

The meetings offer the kind of interactions that have helped members realize that they need not always travel great distances to conferences to connect with colleagues globally, says Hajj Hussein.

2022 Education Innovation Winner

Click here to open poster in larger window/tab. 

“Especially for those who are international…it’s not always easy to come to the U.S. all the way from Europe or the Middle East,” she says. “It can take a long time and cost a lot…for some people it can be as much as three or four months of a salary.”

The group has been busy outside of meetings, too.

Members developed and adopted bylaws and held elections for board members (Hajj Hussein was elected president). A website was created for the group, and GCASE was registered with the state of Michigan as a non-governmental organization (NGO).

“We wanted to make sure this was more than just a group of friends getting together to discuss anatomy,” said Rebecca Pratt, Ph.D., professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, during a presentation on the poster during Medical Education Week. Pratt is one of the co-authors.

“We wanted to put GCASE on the map as something that is actually real,” she said.

Opening the door

Hajj Hussein likens the experience of launching GCASE to that of a caterpillar that morphs into a butterfly.

“That’s how I felt and what I’ve taken from this experience,” she says.

And though GCASE was born out of the pandemic, Hajj Hussein says there’s no slowing it down now and the “butterfly” will continue to fly.

During the Medical Education Week poster presentation, Jickssa Gemechu, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, invited OUWB faculty and students to join the organization. Gemechu, another of the co-authors, said one of the organization’s big goals is to “increase visibility and membership.”

Additional goals for the organization include:

— Increasing the network of collaborators among anatomical sciences educators
— Increasing scholarly output related to the anatomical sciences
— Applying for grants related to anatomical sciences research and education

“The community that formed from an upheaval of normalcy continues to foster collaborations and has opened the door for robust international communication,” states the GCASE poster.

* Other co-authors from OUWB’s Department of Foundational Medical Studies on the GCASE poster were Stefanie Attardi, Ph.D., Malli Barremkala, MBBS, Varna Taranikanti, M.D., Ph.D., Ngan Nguyen, Ph.D., Daniel G. Schlegel, and Doug Gould, Ph.D.

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