University Senate                                                                      Proposed: February 23, 2007

                                                                                                Adopted:

 

 

RESOLUTION TO MERGE TWO DEPARTMENTS,

PATHOLOGY WITH ANATOMY AND CELL BIOLOGY

AND TO CALL THE NEW UNIT

THE DEPARTMENT OF PATHOLOGY AND CELL BIOLOGY

 

WHEREAS      the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine has proposed to merge the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology with the Department  of Pathology, and to call the new unit the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, and

 

WHEREAS      the faculty of the affected Departments as well as the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Medicine have been consulted about the merger and the name for the new Department, and the Provost of the University has given it his approval, and

 

WHEREAS      the members of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology have been given assurances that all current faculty appointments and agreements for joint appointments in the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department will continue to be honored after the merger, and

 

WHEREAS      faculty who hold titles such as Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology will retain those titles if they so desire, and will not receive the new titles that are sometimes customary in merged departments, and

 

WHEREAS      the members of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology have been promised by the Chair of the Department of Pathology and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine that an identifiable unit of Anatomical Sciences will be established within the merged department to safeguard the quality of the educational programs in the anatomical sciences as well as provide a recognizable professional entity as a home for the anatomy faculty, and

 

WHEREAS      both the Chair of the Department of Pathology and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine have assured the Senate Education Committee that the courses in Human Anatomy, Histology, and Human Development will be held to the highest educational standards and will be systematically evaluated by the Committee on the Anatomy Curriculum as called for in the new department bylaws;

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED       that the University Senate approve the merger of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology with the Department of Pathology into a single Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED            that the University Senate ask the Trustees to amend Chapter 4, Section 40 of the University Statutes to reflect the merger of the two departments and the new department name.

 

 

Proponent: Education Committee

University Senate                                                                                  February 23, 2007

 

Proposal for the merger of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology with the Department of Pathology into a Department of Pathology and Cell Biology

 

In November 2004 then Executive Vice President G. Fischbach forwarded to Provost Alan Brinkley, for Senate action, the proposal referenced above.

 

The arguments submitted in favor of the proposal were

  • The blurring between disciplinary boundaries of different biomedical science Departments, with the character of a given biomedical science Department being defined by its research focus rather than its discipline;
  • The changes in biomedical science teaching from discipline-based to subject-based;
  • The focus of the two Departments on the structure of body and cells;
  • The difficulty in finding faculty who can teach gross anatomy and histology
  • The savings in combining the administration of the two Departments

 

Once the proposal had been reviewed by the Education committee of the Senate, it was forwarded to the Senate Executive Committee toward the end of the 2004-2005 Senate session for action by the full Senate. At that time several Executive Committee members raised questions and expressed concerns. The proposal was held over until September of 2005. The Executive Committee, by unanimous decision, remanded the proposal to the Education Committee for a more extensive review.

 

Introduction

 

The traditional instructional responsibilities of members of a Department of Anatomy are in the following four subjects:

  • Gross anatomy (with real or virtual dissection of the human body)
  • Histology (real or virtual microscopic study of the cells, tissues and organs)
  • Embryology (development of the human body) typically coordinated with gross anatomy and histology
  • Neuroanatomy (especially the central nervous system). This component is now largely taught by members of a neuroscience department, as it is at Columbia.

 

A balanced merger would need to keep an adequate number of well-trained anatomists in the new department in order to maintain a solid knowledge of this discipline in the institution and not diminish the level of instructional quality to medical and dental students.

 

The loss of the designation “anatomy” in the new name is indicative of an emphasis on cell biology in the proposed department, with an evident lack of recruitment of new faculty and a concurrent loss of anatomical knowledge at higher levels of observation.

 

While we fully support the right of the EVP to arrange the administrative structure as he considers best, the Education Committee remains concerned that the proposal will result in a loss of skilled anatomists and the resulting loss of instructional quality for medical and dental students.

 

Responses to the specific arguments for the merger

 

The blurring between disciplinary boundaries of different biomedical science Departments, with the character of a given biomedical science Department being defined by its research focus rather than its discipline.

            We do not argue that at the research level there is a convergence of the different biomedical science disciplines, as all current research tends to focus on the cellular and subcellular level.

 

The changes in biomedical science teaching from discipline-based to subject-based.

            This is correct up to a point only. Subjects such as the respiratory system, digestive system, etc. may be taught by faculty trained in different disciplines, all of whom bring their discipline-based knowledge to the subject that is taught. The problem is that the human body is not a collection of isolated subjects – the ability to view the anatomical relationships between the systems is the domain of a well-trained anatomist.

 

The focus of the two Departments on the structure of body and cells.

            The two disciplines represented by the Departments study the structure of body and cells with entirely different philosophies. In the simplest of terms: anatomists study the morphology, the anatomical relationships, and the normal morphological variations. Pathologists study the body and cells with a view to explaining how disease develops and spreads, and affects the body, its tissues and its cells.

 

The difficulty in finding faculty who can teach gross anatomy and histology.

            Our review indicates that there are data to suggest that enough anatomy faculty are being trained. The problem, which is generated by the universities that hire these young faculty, is the pressure to engage in fundable (cellular) research and an unwillingness to invest in well-trained anatomists to provide the necessary instruction to future health care providers.

 

The savings in combining the administration of the two Departments.

            There is no doubt that some savings are realized in combining the departmental administration. The question is whether a merger is needed to make such savings.

 

Additional findings

 

The committee has found that the process leading to the decisions on the merger was flawed. This is now in the past and cannot be changed. However, the commitments that were made orally have been incorporated in the Senate resolution and are incorporated in the new By-Laws of the proposed merged Department.

 

There is no question that there has been a tendency in a number of medical schools to restructure their basic science departments in the period between 1980 and 2004 (the last year for which comprehensive data have been published). These data do not include any pathology departments because of the widespread variation in the classification of these departments as basic science or clinical.

 

Any administration should have a free hand in reordering its organizational structure as long as the impact on the educational quality is harmless. While the short-term educational responsibilities of the merged department appear to have been addressed, there is no evidence that plans exist for long-term staffing by trained anatomists.

 

We note that in the period during which the proposal for this merger was remanded for further review, a new Executive Vice President and Dean was recruited. Dr. Lee Goldman has indicated his support for the proposed merger.

 

The education committee has made the following recommendations:

 

1. that mechanisms be established to maintain the discipline of anatomy in its full scope to serve the needs of the institution, as newer imaging modes and greater emphasis on developmental disorders require the presence of a faculty with expertise in that discipline. Although the proposed name change received early acceptance, it does not reflect the continuation of anatomy as a discipline, with the exception of cell biology.

 

2. that a newly framed set of By-Laws for the merged Department be written and approved, that clearly sets forth safeguards for the preservation of instructional responsibilities by members of both Departments. Since these recommendations were made, new By-Laws have been prepared and approved.

 

3. that assurances be given in the form of recruitment plans for individuals trained in either one of the two disciplines. The loss of individuals with a solid expertise in either discipline not only would present a loss to the institution as noted above, but it would diminish the level of instructional quality to medical and dental students.

 

The subcommittee noted with some concern the statement in Dean Fischbach’s letter that the “majority of the faculty members in the Pathology Department have had a medical education….” and that “many would need to refresh their knowledge before they could teach in the anatomy course.”

 

4. further, that incentives be created for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty members to strengthen their discipline-based training in anatomy and to assist them in developing the required anatomical expertise for the teaching of the health science professionals.

 

Letty Moss-Salentijn

Chair, Senate Committee on Education