Anatomy Learning Institute History

The discipline of Anatomy has been taught at Point Loma Nazarene University as early as 1975. Initially, anatomy was delivered as a combined course with physiology, and over the years the format has evolved to meet the expanding needs of various cohorts of PLNU students. Several early initiatives were launched to enhance teaching and learning in anatomy including The Human Anatomy Project.

The Human Anatomy Project was born in the late 1990’s and led by Dr. Leon Kugler in the tight quarters of the basement in the Rohr Science Building.  Imagination, a keen desire to learn and teach highly motivated undergraduates and colleagues, and an unwillingness to simply wait for appropriate funding were the “resources” at hand. Dr  Kugler invited students and faculty to tutoring sessions; his audience included multiple majors but primarily Kinesiology students projecting to careers in medicine and health care were recruited.

Dr. Kugler always pursued excellence in his work and teaching, and he worked tirelessly to create robust academic programs in Physical Education and Kinesiology that reflected such excellence. Many PLNU Honor Scholars’ research projects were spawned from these cohorts which were proposed and defended before a committee of faculty with Dr Kugler as Chair. The research projects were then presented at the annual PLNU Honors Conference in the Spring of each year. The graduates received Honors at Graduation, and many who participated in the Human Anatomy Project advanced to graduate training and are now fulfilling their callings as Athletic Trainers, Physician Assistants, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Medical Doctors, Nurses, or Chiropractors,

All of these efforts led to the development of the Anatomy Lab to provide students with an opportunity to work with human body donors. The growth progression of the program went from not-for-credit education, to incorporation into course content in the Structural Kinesiology course, to a free standing summer school course, to offerings throughout the academic year, and currently to undergraduate and graduate cadaver dissection courses across 6 academic programs. Symbols of belonging were the white lab coats for those starting their dissection career and Blue coats for Lab Assistants and Faculty. Each cohort had a unique alliterative name, eg. ”R.T.T.R. Rat Tooth Tissue Reflectors”. 

All of these efforts were the foundational contributions that led to the development of the Anatomy Learning Institute in 2022 by Dr. Joy Balta.