Education: Dept. of Molecular Pathobiology

DDS students and faculty with plastinated materials

 

Plastinations

In 2005, NYU Dentistry became the first dental school in the US to replace the dissection of wet cadavers in an anatomy course with a plastinated anatomical teaching collection. Gunther von Hagens, a Visiting Professor in the Department, invented Plastination in 1977. The department’s collection, derived from the Body Donation Program of the Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany, was produced at the von Hagen Plastinarium in Guben, Germany. The plastination technology preserves biological tissues in curable polymers, and has transformed the study of anatomy.

Currently, the department houses 78 head and neck plastinates with varied prosections specified for the DDS anatomy course (Fig. 1), eight prosected full bodies (Fig. 2), upper and lower limb prosections, isolated brains and spinal cords, and thoracic and abdominal viscera. The collection also includes hundreds of body slices, between 1-5 millimeters in thickness, in three different planes (Fig. 3). A full-time curator, Joshua Johnson, manages and maintains the collection, and has developed methods for rehabilitating the collection when it is damaged through normal wear and tear (Johnson & Baker, 2017).

Plastinated head and neck prosections

Fig. 1. Plastinated head and neck prosections, shelved in one of two dedicated plastinate storage rooms.

 

Two of the eight full cadavers in the collection

Fig. 2. Two of the eight full cadavers in the collection.

 

Parasagittal head and neck slice

Fig. 3. Parasagittal head and neck slice.

 

Detail of plastinated head dissection

Fig. 4. Detail of plastinated head dissection, demonstrating the trigeminal nerve and its branches, as well as details of the pterygopalatine fossa and its nervous components.

 

Teaching the NYU Dentistry Head and Neck Anatomy course to first year DDS students with plastinated materials alleviates concerns regarding exposure to embalming fumes, given that the plastinates are dry, odorless, and non-toxic. In addition, there is no longer a need to maintain a cadaver facility and acquire new cadavers each year, as the specimens do not degrade and can be used indefinitely. More importantly, teaching anatomy with plastinates, particularly the anatomy of the head and neck, allows students to see a high degree of anatomical specificity. The plastinated specimens exhibit great anatomical detail (Fig. 4), in many cases far beyond that which a student would see while dissecting in lab. The slices allow for comparison between 2D and 3D representations of the same structure, preparing students for interpretation of radiographs, CT scans and MRI images. In addition, the size and breadth of the collection allows for the appreciation of the normal biological, and in some cases pathological, variation that exists for any given anatomical structure.

The acquisition of the plastinated anatomical teaching collection has allowed faculty to completely redesign the anatomy course to emphasize small group learning. The success of this method is reflected in dental board scores and pass rates (Baker et al., 2013). Since the implementation of the new course with plastinates, a number of dental schools throughout the US have reached out to the department to visit the anatomy facilities with the goal of replicating elements of the course.
 

Courses Taught by Department Faculty

The Department of Molecular Pathobiology contributes foundational knowledge and elective course instruction in the DDS program. Department faculty also teach in other departments within the DDS curriculum and within the Dental Hygiene program. Additionally, many of the department faculty coordinate and/or teach in post-graduate and graduate courses within NYU Dentistry, at the NYU School of Medicine, and elsewhere within NYU.

 

DDS Courses: Dept. of Molecular Pathobiology

DDS 1st year  

  • Basic Tissues
    Course Coordinator: Elisabeth Lopez
  • Building Blocks of Life
    Course Coordinator:
     Wenbo Yan
  • Cellular Organelles
    Course Coordinator:
    Elisabeth Lopez
  • Craniofacial Biology
    Course Coordinator:
     Andrew Spielman
  • Embryology
    Course Coordinator:
     Eric Baker
  • Head & Neck Anatomy
    Course Coordinator:
    Eric Baker
  • Microbiology
    Course Coordinator: Deepak Saxena/Jessica Manser
  • Neuroscience
    Course Coordinator: Cristian Stefan
  • Principles of Pharmacology
    Course Coordinator: Wenbo Yan

DDS 3rd year 

  • NBDE Part 1 Review
    Course Coordinator:
    Elena Cunningham

DDS multi-year

  • INBDE Preparation
    Course Coordinator: Elena Cunningham

 

Teaching in Other Departments and Programs

  • Oral Embryology and Histology (Dental Hygiene)
    Course Coordinator: Anna Di Gregorio/Joshua Johnson

  • Masters in Oral Biology
    Program coordinator: Joseph Guttenplan
  • Masters of Science Degree Program in Dental Sciences
    Program Coordinator:
    Ronald Craig
  • Host Response to Infection and Trauma
    Course Coordinator:
    Ronald Craig
  • Integrated Seminars in Oral Biology I
    Course Coordinator: Joseph Guttenplan
  • Integrated Seminars in Oral Biology II
    Course Coordinator:
    Shoshana Yakar
  • Masters in Biomaterials
  • Craniofacial Disorders Lecture Series
  • Developmental and Stem Cell Systems I
  • Developmental and Stem Cell Systems II
  • Developmental Genetics Graduate Program
  • Integrated Seminars in Oral Biology I
  • Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Seminars

  • Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry
    Course Coordinator: Andrew Spielman
  • Integrated Basic Science and Clinical Case Presentation Seminars
    Course Coordinator:
    Andrew Spielman
  • Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Diseases
  • Diversity, Attitudes and Health Beliefs
  • General Pathology
  • Geriatrics
  • Immunology
  • Research Honors
  • Systemic Pathology

Johnson JH, Baker EW. (2017). Rehabilitation of Plastinated Anatomical Prosections Using Silicone Adhesive and Pre-Cured S10/S3-Impregnated Fascia and Muscle. The Journal of Plastination 29(2):30 -36.

Baker EW, Slott P, Terracio L, Cunningham EP. (2013). An innovative method for teaching anatomy. Journal of Dental Education 77:1498-1807.
 


 

Instructional Innovation

The Department of Molecular Pathobiology is at the forefront of instructional innovation. Faculty in the Department work with instructional technologists at the NYU College of Dentistry as well as with NYU-wide instructional technology resources to ensure that new course development — and the modification of existing courses — takes advantage of technologies and analytics that will ultimately best serve the students and faculty of our community. Some examples of the department teaching developments are described below.

15 years ago, the teaching of gross anatomy to incoming students at NYU Dentistry switched from cadaveric dissection to the use of plastinations. With the acquisition of the plastinated anatomical teaching collection, course director Eric Baker redesigned the course to best make use of the new materials, and to align with the science of learning and best practices in teaching (Baker et al., 2013). The course is taught as a combination of lecture and small-group lab instruction. In lab, the student learning is self-directed and encourages peer teaching. The students complete many small stakes pre-lab and post-lab quizzes (typically 4 a week), capitalizing on the positive relationship between frequent episodes of retrieval of learned material and excellent results in assessments such as final exams and board exams. The success of this course is reflected in scores for the anatomy section of the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part 1, which have averaged 1.73 standard deviations above the national mean.

Baker EW, Slott P, Terracio L, Cunningham EP. (2013). An innovative method for teaching anatomy. Journal of Dental Education 77:1498-1807.

Building Blocks of Life (BBL) is a 6-week course offered to first-year, incoming dental students during the summer. As the name implies, students gain an understanding of the fundamental macromolecules that govern biological processes, and dive deeper into advanced concepts such as enzyme kinetics, prokaryotic and mammalian metabolism, and the central dogma of molecular biology. To decrease the time that busy dental students spend in lecture halls, a team of instructors, web developers, and administrators worked together to redesign BBL several years ago to have all lectures delivered online through the NYU Learning Management System. Students review 3-4 modules per week at their own pace and take online quizzes on each module to assess their understanding of the material. Two in-class exams are administered as well, as a means of summative assessment. During the course, students have direct access to several professors that conduct biochemical research or teach biochemistry regularly through a discussion board on the NYU Learning Management System and via email. Students are also encouraged to attend in-person review sessions prior to exams. Overall, students have a track record of performing at the same, high-level as those that took the traditional lecture years ago. Updates are being made to the BBL course site and exam questions to align with the expectations of the Integrated National Board Dentistry Exam (INBDE).  

In previous years, the NBDE had Part 1 (after two years of dental school) and Part 2 (after four years) components, with testing of basic science knowledge concentrated in Part 1. Recent modifications, however, have resulted in the implementation of a single integrated examination (the INBDE) at the end of the four years. Therefore, the NYU College of Dentistry has had to reformulate its board preparation course. Course directors Elena Cunningham and Eric Baker, working with a team of faculty and instructional technologists, have developed a new course consisting of short case history quiz modules that are presented to the students, one each week over the course of the four-year curriculum. These integrate didactic and clinical learning, and help students preserve their memory of basic science content, while simultaneously applying it to clinical scenarios. The complexity and knowledge base of these case history questions increases as students progress through the four years of the course. All content for the course is accessed and graded on-line through the NYU LMS system. The weekly units include explanations and brief review material in addition to the presented case histories and associated questions.

Cerego is an online adaptive learning platform designed around the principles of retrieval learning and distributed practice. In Cerego, a memory (a single piece of information the student must learn) is presented and then repeatedly tested in a variety of formats (Fig. 1). The student is guided through iterations of review which are individualized in real time based on performance. S/he is informed when to return to a set for most effective study session spacing. Detailed performance analytics are available to both the student and the instructor.

At NYU Dentistry, lab conference hours for the review of anatomy in preparation for the NBDE Part I were reduced due to an increase in the incoming class size in 2015. Tasked with providing students an effective means to review material that could no longer be covered in the given lab hours, Elena Cunningham and colleagues identified Cerego as a way to provide a self-guided anatomy study tool. Working together, Elena Cunningham and Johanna Warshaw replaced what would otherwise have been 96 faculty hours of instruction with Cerego modules. The success of Cerego in the NBDE Part 1 review course prompted faculty to integrate Cerego modules into the Head and Neck Anatomy course. Since the introduction of the Cerego for the study of anatomy, Elisabeth Lopez has incorporated Cerego into other courses within the Department of Molecular Pathobiology (Basic Tissues, Cellular Organelles), and Jane McCutcheon has brought Cerego into the Immunology class. Faculty in other departments at NYU Dentistry also now use Cerego. Drs. Cunningham and Warshaw were instrumental in bringing Cerego to the notice of NYU-wide instructional technology, and the university now holds a license for the software.

 

Figure 1. Sample screenshots from the Cerego application. Top left: an association testing page. Top right: An identification testing page. Bottom left: a multiple-choice testing page, with an incorrect student answer indicated in red, and the correct answer indicated in green. Bottom right: a fill in the blank testing page.  

 

Academy of Distinguished Educators

The NYU Academy of Distinguished Educators recognizes outstanding teaching among NYU Dentistry faculty, and supports the development of new curricula, research into teaching and learning, and fosters a dedicated community of like-minded educators. Acceptance into the Academy follows a rigorous application process, and vote for induction by the Academy members. Faculty of the Academy are committed to excellence in teaching, the further development of their skills, and serving the College as mentors and trailblazers for best practices in teaching. The following Department faculty are members or fellows of the Academy of Distinguished Educators.

Elisabeth Lopez

Chair-elect, Academy Executive Committee
Member, Academy Membership Committee
Chair, Teaching and Learning Journal Club Committee

Eric Baker
Member and former Chair, Academy Executive Committee
Member, Academy Membership Committee

Ronald Craig
Former member, Academy Executive Committee
Member, Academy Membership Committee

Elena Cunningham
Former member, Academy Executive Committee
Member and former Chair, Teaching and Learning Journal Club Committee

Johanna Warshaw
Former member and Chair, Academy Executive Committee
Member and former Chair, Teaching and Learning Journal Club Committee
Member and former Chair, Academy Membership Committee
 

Andrew Spielman
Louis Terracio

Academy of Distinguished Educators

 

Teaching and Learning Publications

  • Baker E, Ed. (2015). Anatomy for Dental Medicine (2nd edition). Thieme Medical Publishers, New York.
  • Baker E, O’Meara J (2019). Anatomy of Local Anesthesia. In: Oral Surgery for Dental Students: A Quick Reference Guide. (Jeffrey Elo, Ed.). Thieme Medical Publishers, New York.
  • Baker E, Warshaw J, Eds. (2018). Anatomy for dental medicine in your pocket. Thieme Medical Publishers, New York.
  • Baker EW, Slott P, Terracio L, Cunningham EP (2013). An innovative method for teaching anatomy. Journal of Dental Education 77:1498-1807.
  • Stefan C, Ed. Consulting Ed. (2020) Head, Neck and Neuroanatomy, Thieme Atlas of Anatomy, (Volume 3, Third edition, English Nomenclature). Thieme Medical Publishers, New York.
  • Borden NM, Forseen SE, Stefan C (2016). Imaging Anatomy of the Human Brain – A Comprehensive Atlas Including Adjacent Structures, Demos Medical Publishing, New York.

  • Harmon D, Hankin MH, Martindale J, Farias A, Cotter MM, Topping D, Latacha K, Zumwalt A, Lopez EKN, McNary T, Giannaris L, Kar R, Notebaert A (2019). Essential anatomy for clerkships and electives - a multisite survey of clinical educators. Presented at the 131st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, Orlando, FL. The FASEB Journal 33(S1):607.1.
  • Lopez EN, Cunningham EP, Warshaw J, Johnson J, Baker EW (2018). A unique and effective method of anatomy education. Experimental Biology 2018, San Diego, CA. The FASEB Journal 32(Issue 1 Supplement).
  • Slott PA, Baker E, Singh IJ, Cunningham E, Von Hagens G, Bromage T, Fuss C, Diwersi N, Terracio L (2006). The new anatomy: dissectionless but not cadaverless. FASEB Journal, vol. 20(5), page A885. Abstract 574.1.
  • Warshaw J, Lopez EN, Baker EW, Cunningham EP (2018). Mastering anatomy: using Cerego as a teaching tool. Experimental Biology 2018, San Diego, CA. The FASEB Journal 32(Issue 1 Supplement).

  • Craig R (2015). The critical importance of retrieval for learning, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Cunningham EP (2018). Cerego best practices. Academy of Distinguished Educators Lecture, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Cunningham EP (2017). What makes a great teacher? Distinguished Teaching Award Insights, NYU Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Kimmel Center.
  • Cunningham EP (2016). Mind-full. Presidential Inauguration Week Research Presentations, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Cunningham EP (2014). Spacing effects in learning: a temporal ridgeline of optimal retention, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Cunningham EP (2013). Retrieval-based learning: a perspective for enhancing meaningful learning, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Johnson J (2019). Too much content, not enough thinking, and too little FUN!, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Lopez EN (2016). The effect of type and timing of feedback on learning from multiple-choice tests, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Lopez EKN, Warshaw J, Baker EW, Cunningham EP (2019). Using Cerego in student board exam preparation. Academy of Distinguished Educators Clinical & Educational Scholarship 2019 Showcase, January 15, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Slott PA, Cunningham EP, Baker E, Terracio L (2011). New anatomy: plastinated prosections and slices use student time efficiently and increase enjoyment. Clinical and Educational Scholarship Showcase 29, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Stefan C (2016). Faculty and medical student attitudes about preclinical classroom attendance, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Stefan C (2019). A parallel between Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s travels and the educational journey through the Neuroscience course for healthcare professions, The Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Chicago.
  • Stefan C, du Plesis M, Hage R (2019). Laughing to learn, The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Vienna, Austria.
  • Stefan C (2017). Pros, cons and alternative solutions regarding the incorporation of review sessions in system-based courses, The Second International Congress of Clinical Anatomy and Fifth Argentine Congress of Clinical Anatomy, Cordoba, Argentina.
  • Stefan C (2017). A modified application of the aphorism “carpe diem” to convert challenges into opportunities for enhancement in the educational environment, The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Helsinki, Finland.
  • Stefan C (2016). Using radiological imaging as a vector for critical thinking and integration in case and team-based learning exercises, The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Stefan C (2015). Developing critical thinking through curricular integration between anatomical sciences, pathophysiology, and clinical skills, The First International Congress of Clinical Anatomy in Argentina and the 4th Congress of the Argentine Association of Clinical Anatomy, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Stefan C (2015). The place of histology education in the revised curriculum: from medical and dental school to residency, The First International Congress of Clinical Anatomy in Argentina and the 4th Congress of the Argentine Association of Clinical Anatomy, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Stefan C, Hage R (2013). A crossword about curricular crossroads, The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Prague, The Czech Republic.
  • Stefan C, Rutledge R, Anderson J (2013). The six steps of simulation-based curriculum development: Educational strategies, The 13th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare, Orlando, FL.
  • Warshaw J (2019). Teaching with plastinations: human anatomy revealed. Friday Focus, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Warshaw J (2016). Cognitive load theory in health professional education: design principles and strategies, Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Warshaw J (2016). Teaching with plastinations: head and neck anatomy revealed. Friday Focus, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Warshaw J (2014). Working memory underpins cognitive development, learning, and education. Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.
  • Warshaw J, Craig RG, Eidtson W, Ferraiolo DM, Northridge ME, Spivakovsky S, and Cunningham EP. (2016). A teaching and learning journal club. Faculty Development Marketplace: A Forum for Collaboration. American Dental Education Association 2016 annual session and exhibition, March, Denver, CO.
  • Yan W (2018). Improving dental students’ long-term retention of pharmacy knowledge with 'medication minutes'. Academy of Distinguished Educators Teaching and Learning Journal Club, NYU College of Dentistry.

 

Teaching Awards

  • Eric Baker. Student Council Faculty of the Month, NYU College of Dentistry, January, 2019.
  • Cristian Stefan. Faculty Council Teaching Award in Recognition of Outstanding Teaching and Dedication to Dental Students, NYU College of Dentistry, 2019.
  • Wenbo Yan. Dean’s Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2019.
  • Juhee Jeong. Faculty Council Teacher Recognition Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2018.
  • Wenbo Yan. Student Council Faculty of the Month Award, NYU College of Dentistry, January 2018.
  • Elisabeth Lopez. Faculty Council Teacher Recognition Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2017-2018
  • Xin Li. Faculty Council Outstanding Teacher Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2017.
  • Elena Cunningham. NYU Distinguished Teaching Award, New York University, 2016-2017.
  • Cristian Stefan. Dean’s Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2016.
  • Cristian Stefan. Faculty Choice Award for Teaching Excellency in the Pre-matriculation Student Educational Enrichment Program for Medical and Dental Students, Georgia Regents University, 2012.
  • Cristian Stefan. Faculty Choice Award for Teaching Excellency in the Pre-matriculation Student Educational Enrichment Program for Medical and Dental Students, Georgia Regents University, 2011.
  • Eric Baker. Faculty Council Teaching Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2010.
  • Eric Baker. Dean’s Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2010.
  • Andrew Spielman, ADEA Excellence in Teaching Award, American Dental Education Association, 2010.
  • Johanna Warshaw. Faculty Council Teacher Recognition Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2010.
  • Eric Baker. Student Council Teaching Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2009.
  • Andrew Spielman. Distinguished Teaching Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2009.
  • Cristian Stefan. Educational Achievement (Star) Award, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2007.
  • Andrew Spielman. ADEA Dental Education Award, American Dental Education Association, 2007.
  • Eric Baker. Dean’s Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2005.
  • Elena Cunningham. Dean’s Award, NYU College of Dentistry, 2005.