Isn’t it amazing that we organisms—humans, dogs, bugs, horses, and nearly all others—follow a pattern of development, true to course, from beginning to end?
Tara Hamilton-Fay thinks so. She remembers being smitten by the development and consistent structure of arms, legs, organs, and myriad structures even as a kid.
“The fact that development proceeds in such a typical pattern for the majority of us, that we have two arms, two legs, and a head right where it should be,” said Hamilton-Fay. “I find that magical…I’ve just been amazed by the whole body.”
That wonder helped propel Hamilton-Fay to a successful academic career. She’s been studying and teaching anatomy and physiology, using Anatomy in Clay® Learning System models, for years. At the University of Scranton, where she is a faculty specialist in the Biology Department, she deploys nine models for scores of laboratory sessions with students.
Over the course of a typical semester, some 100 students work on the forms, she said. Often, she and teaching assistants set up stations and students rotate among them. Other times, pairs of students will work on a single model. Typical students will go on to major in nursing, occupational therapy, or kinesiology.
“I really like the Anatomy in Clay models because I can customize them to whatever I want to teach,” said Hamilton-Fay, who attended graduate school at University of Colorado in Boulder. ”I can also use the clay sometimes to make what I’d like. A lymph node, for instance. We just did that a few weeks ago. I can make a model of the kidney. We’ve done hearts. Stand-alone structures or organs are nice.”
When the university closed last month due to the nationwide push to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Hamilton-Fay recorded a brief lesson on video, using Anatomy in Clay models. She wanted to make some videos available to students without the now impossible, in-person interaction.
“I’ve been wanting to get some things on videos, to get this kind of content delivery to them if students want to engage more in their learning” she said.
She created a YouTube channel and has since created a dozen short videos, each about three minutes in length. Topics include the heart, the digestive system, veins, and arteries. (More are being posted every week; check back often or subscribe to her channel!)
Clearly, others are now sharing the interest in anatomy that Hamilton-Fay has had for decades. It’s been quite a journey:
When she was about 11, the Massachusetts native remembers watching a physical therapist come to the house to help her grandmother, who had suffered a stroke. Her ‘Nonie was partially paralyzed and could not walk or use one of her arms. With help from the physical therapist, that mobility returned.
“I thought that was really impressive and amazing.”
Hamilton-Fay studied anatomy in high school and exercise physiology at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with the idea of becoming a physical therapist. After learning more about the business-side of the profession, she gravitated instead to academia.
It’s a setting that suits her. She excels at the detail-oriented study of anatomy while nurturing students with her genuine, long-held enthusiasm.