In a healthcare education and communications career spanning twenty-five years and multiple countries, Chris Davis thought he had seen it all. Then, he toured the Anatomy in Clay® headquarters in Loveland, Colorado, where he came face-to-face with the Anatomy in Clay® MANIKEN™ model and owners Jon and Renee Zahourek.
Referring to the learning system, Davis says “I was blown away.” Building anatomy on the Anatomy in Clay® MANIKEN™ model, he found, called to action a variety of learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile. And even for a self-described “paper pusher,” Davis could not help but notice that his creative juices were “flowing.”
As much as Davis would like to continue to learn with the models, he has a job to do as the Management and Education Consultant for Anatomy in Clay®. That job, says Davis, is to “provide innovation and insights to help the company grow.”
Davis first came aboard the company in May 2020—and immediately experienced a sort of baptism by fire. Amid a pandemic that turned the entire business model on its head, the consultant found himself in an “all-hands-on-deck” situation. With in-person conferences and professional development workshops out of the picture, Davis and others wondered: How do we get models into the hands of educators and students?
Out of this conundrum arose a series of changes. Some might call them upgrades! First, the Test Drive Program and Lending Library. Both options open access to models for underserved schools, teachers, and students at little to no cost. The downtime also prompted an effort to reengineer the business including an analysis of cost synergies, to developing new educational offerings, and new ways of marketing.
Davis is familiar with companies’ techniques to stay afloat in trying economic times—for example, raising costs of products. He has been pleasantly surprised to find the opposite is true at Anatomy in Clay®. Recognizing the limitations of school budgets and scarce resources for educators, Davis is currently analyzing how to bring prices down in order to get more models in the hands of more learners—but adds that this strategy would have been pursued with or without the pandemic. Davis recalls founder Jon Zahourek expressing his desire to drive around to every school to hand out the Anatomy in Clay® MANIKEN ™ and TORZIKEN ™ models—for free.
Pandemic aside, Davis acknowledges that, at first, it is hard for many people to understand what the learning system is all about. “The a-ha moment comes when students actually build anatomy on the models,” he says, when they can feel clay in hand, when they see and touch the actual models.
A common misconception, even among educators, is that the clay is for kids. “People will say, ‘now that I’m an adult, I learn by PowerPoint presentations or by someone talking to me,’” says Davis. The Anatomy in Clay® models suggest a more dynamic approach to learning that is equally beneficial for different ages and backgrounds. And if clay is for kids, well, perhaps we should all be learning like kids again!
This is the message Davis is taking to fellow adults in the room. Davis points to Dr. Beth Moody Jones, as an example. Dr. Moody Jones uses the Anatomy in Clay® MANIKEN™ models “every day” in teaching graduate-level Physical Therapy classes at the University of New Mexico. For her students, retention levels have improved. And for herself, as a teacher, she has found that the models integrate remarkably well into topics ranging from “deep” to “superficial” anatomy.
The pandemic prompted Anatomy in Clay® to expand virtual and distance learning—aspects that were not much a part of the company’s DNA beforehand. Will these options die out with the pandemic? Probably not, says Davis. The consultant is likely not alone in pining for the return of in-person workshops and conferences. And he is already planning for a future in which more people (yes, adults too!) encounter the Anatomy in Clay® models in museums, hospitals, and universities.