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Teaching Human Reproduction | A Chat with Margaret Reece | TAPP 122

by Kevin Patton

Teaching Human Reproduction | A Chat with Margaret Reece

TAPP Radio Episode 122


Episode | Quick Take

Veteran A&P educator and reproduction researcher Dr. Margaret Reece joins host Kevin Patton to talk about challenges of teaching human reproduction and development. Reece also briefly discusses her online resources (MedicalScienceNavigator.com) and her experiences in helping overwhelmed A&P students succeed in their studies.

  • 00:00 | Introduction
  • 00:43 | Reproductive Biology
  • 08:13 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 08:58 | Ultrasound & Reproductive Biology
  • 20:25 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 21:13 | Basic Science
  • 35:27 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 36:33 | Medical Science Navigator
  • 50:19 | Staying Connected


Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane. (Mohandas Gandhi)


Reproductive Biology

8 minutes

We meet Dr. Margaret Reece, former zoo biology researcher (primate/human reproduction) and veteran anatomy & physiology faculty.

Teaching Human Reproduction | A Chat with Margaret Reece | TAPP 122


Sponsored by AAA

42 seconds

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo


Ultrasound & Problem Pregnancy

11.5 minutes

Margaret Reece emphasizes the role of ultrasound in discovering facts about early human development. She also tells the story of an interesting ultrasound event she attended early in her career. Margaret also shares her personal story of a pregnancy problem.

  • A Short History of Sonography in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (from ObGyn journal) AandP.info/pf9
  • Molar Pregnancy (an overview from Mayo Clinic) AandP.info/oho
  • Ectopic Pregnancy (an overview from Mayo Clinic) AandP.info/03d
  • Abortion (from National Women’s Health Network) AandP.info/xd0


Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

21 seconds

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. Check it out!


Logo of Northeast College of Health Sciences, Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction

Basic Science

14 minutes

Dr. Reece discusses the process of determining what is appropriate coverage of basic science and clinical applications in the A&P course. She also emphasizes that processes of life appear in many different organisms. And, well, things are complicated.

  • Who Was Carl Sagan? (For those who missed the phenomenon that was Carl Sagan; from National Geographic) AandP.info/tu5


Sponsored by HAPS

36 seconds

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society


HAPS Book Club Fall 2022:
What Inclusive Instructors Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching

HAPS logo


Medical Science Navigator

14 minutes

Margaret Reece has a website for A&P students who may feel overwhelmed with their learning tasks. It’s great for faculty, too!

  • Medical Science Navigator—Help for Anatomy and Physiology Students (Margaret Reece’s website) MedicalScienceNavigator.com/
  • 30-Day Challenge: Craft Your Plan for Learning Physiology (“A simple formula for getting past your anxiety that human physiology is too hard to learn!”) AandP.info/ye4
  • Free Strategy Blueprint: Chart Your Course to an ‘A’ in Anatomy & Physiology (include three-week email course) AandP.info/45r

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

PDF icon


Kevin Patton (00:00):
Mohandas Gandhi once stated, “The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.”

TAPP Orchestra (00:08):
[theme music]

Aileen Park (00:11):
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton (00:25):
In this episode, Dr. Margaret Reece joins us for a discussion of human reproduction and development and related challenges in teaching and learning.

TAPP Orchestra (00:35):
[theme music]

Reproductive Biology

Kevin Patton (00:44):
Okay, well, I’m really glad to be here for this episode with my friend, Margaret Reece. We’ve talked off and on about her coming on the podcast for years and so now it’s finally happening. It’s coming up at a great time because she and I have been talking about the fact that human reproductive anatomy, it’s tough thing to teach. It’s a tough thing to understand. This all came up a few episodes ago when I was talking about pregnancy, misconceptions surrounding pregnancy and abortion related concepts and clearing up those misconceptions. So this is perfect timing for this.

Kevin Patton (01:24):
So before we get into that topic, I just want you to know my friend, Margaret Reece. She and I have been involved in A&P education in our own separate little corners for years and years. But before we get into that, there’s one other thing that you and I have in common, and that is we both have a background in working in zoos. Tell me about that first. Just very briefly, what’s your background in zoos?

Margaret Reece (01:54):
Well, I completed my PhD at the University of California, Davis in 1982, and I was looking at postdoc positions various places, but there was this one that I found really fascinating. The postdoc was at the San Diego Zoo. Spent a little over two years there studying reproduction across the order primate from lemurs to humans. My special project was phytoestrogens and their effect on the pregnancy of macaque monkeys, particularly the lion-tailed macaques, which were endangered. We had received a group of them from Monaco, from the prince because he had a colony them and he decided he couldn’t take care of them anymore. So he made a deal with the San Diego Zoo to take them on. So we were very concerned about their health and reproducing and all that sort of thing. So it was a great time.

Unfold the entire transcript →

Kevin Patton (02:57):
Oh, I bet. Sounds like it.

Margaret Reece (02:58):
Wonderful postdoc.

Kevin Patton (02:59):
Yeah, I guess you’ve found, the same way I and other A&P instructors have found, that work with animals really does give you a different perspective on human biology too. It widens out your view on everything. I think there are a lot of us in the A&P teaching community that have that kind of background. I think there are a few different core backgrounds that we come to A&P from, and that’s one of them.

Kevin Patton (03:28):
But something else I want to mention about you Margaret is all the work you’ve done over the last decade or more, well, more than that, when you total it all up, in helping students, A&P students. You have a website, Medical Science Navigator. It is it MedicalScienceNavigator.com? Okay. I’ve been into it a number of times over the years because you just have a lot of resources there for A&P students and for A&P teachers. I find it very helpful. It gives me some good ideas in terms of how to help my students, especially in organizing their study and having a good attitude. I think that’s something that you really focus on there, where I can send my students and say, “Hey, look, you’re having trouble. Look here.” And there are some opportunities there in terms of workbooks and you have something called a 30 Day Challenge: Craft Your Plan for Learning Physiology.

Kevin Patton (04:24):
So those kinds of things are great tools. We’re going to circle back to that a little bit later. That might have been the first time we met was because of our common interest in producing books for students. I think we were at the same seminar, same Textbook & Academic Authors Association. Yeah. All right, well that was a long way to get to the point where I’m welcoming you. But welcome, Margaret to the podcast.

Margaret Reece (04:49):
Thank you.

Kevin Patton (04:49):
Oh, one other thing I want to mention for you, the listener in that is you may have heard Margaret’s name before, because she has written in with comments in the past, and I’ve shared those on different episodes. But let’s get to human reproduction. Teaching human reproduction is not the easiest thing. Why do you think that is?

Margaret Reece (05:14):
No, it isn’t the easiest thing. Well, first of all, it took a very long time to work out the central nervous system’s role in controlling the pituitary’s release of the s. It took a long time to understand how follicles in the ovary developed over time. There was a big breakthrough when Schally and Guillemin in the ’70s finally, after going through millions of pounds of sheep brain actually got out that 10 amino acid peptide that causes the release of the gonadotropins from the pituitary. First of all, they didn’t want to call it a hormone. They called it a releasing factor at first because they just couldn’t fit that into the classic definition of a hormone being delivered to the blood and then to the pituitary. But they finally got that worked out. Now they call it a hormone.

Margaret Reece (06:22):
But the one peptide released both LH and FSH, but at different times and under different circumstances. So that became a very long process sorting out how that worked so that you would have just FSH in the first part of the cycle, and then under FSH, getting the ovary to produce the estrogen, you had enough estrogen for enough period of time, you got the LH surge that caused the follicle to rupture. So all that work was done between say 1970 and 2000. That’s pretty solid stuff now. It’s well defined. There was many, many NIH dollars went into that work. The second piece, the piece about the sperm fertilizing the egg, that took a longer time to work out. Although, it had been worked out in animals quite clearly for quite a while. But working out exactly how the human egg did it took even more time. But the big, big breakthrough on going from zygote, the fertilized egg, to the embryo, to the fetus and being able to really see and know what was going on there was aided by the improvements around 2000 in ultrasound.

Kevin Patton (08:05):
I’ll be back with Margaret Reece right after this quick sponsor break.

TAPP Orchestra (08:09):
[transition music]

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (08:13):
A searchable transcript and a captioned audiogram of this episode are funded by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy. One of my favorite resources from AAA is their journal for teaching and learning anatomy and physiology called Anatomical Sciences Education, or ASE for short. I want to congratulate the amazing and highly respected Dr. Jason Organ who has just been named the new editor-in-chief of ASE. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Jason takes things. Check it out at anatomy.org.

TAPP Orchestra (08:52):
[transition music]

Ultrasound & Problem Pregnancy

Margaret Reece (08:59):
But the big, big breakthrough on going from zygote, the fertilized egg, to the embryo, to the fetus, and being able to really see and know what was going on there was aided by the improvements around 2000 in ultrasound. Up until that time, the ultrasound pictures were just fuzzies like TV is going bad. It took imagination to really see what you were seeing.

Kevin Patton (09:36):

Margaret Reece (09:38):
But around 2000, the producers of the ultrasound machines got them to the point where you had a picture. You had an actual picture that you could see that looked like something recognizable, not just a fuzzy, fuzzy picture. I was working in an OB-GYN department. I was at a conference that was a medical conference in San Francisco, and I was with one of the OBs and she said, “Margaret, you got to come to this great event tonight in the ballroom. Great food. And also big surprise.” “Okay.” So I went. There was great food. And along the side of the room, Kevin, there were tables lining the side of the room and there were pregnant ladies laying on these tables.

Kevin Patton (10:33):
Oh boy.

Margaret Reece (10:33):
And next to them were the machines. It was the first demo of being able to actually see the infant looking like an infant in utero.

Kevin Patton (10:44):
Oh wow. I bet that was a very dramatic experience never ever having seen or heard of anything like that before.

Margaret Reece (10:52):
It was awesome. And it was medical doctor type bizarre too. These people were so interested, eating and drinking and looking at these ultrasounds. And the ladies were laying there smiling. It was just fabulous. But with that change where you could actually follow it and the improvements in the IVF programs, the early IVF programs were trying to take the ovulated egg, fertilize it in vitro, let it develop to the blastocyst, and then looking at the blastocysts, trying to decide which ones look good. We did that in cows, too.

Kevin Patton (11:42):

Margaret Reece (11:42):
I worked for Carnation Genetics and we were doing embryo transplants in cows. We’re doing the same thing. We’re looking at it and saying, “Which ones look good?” Well, over time, they were able to get the information, they had in vitro modeling systems where they could test out the sets of embryos and define better which ones actually were going to take. So they didn’t have to put in six and maybe have four take and have a terrible pregnancy, or put in eight and none take. They could get it down to putting in two and be somewhat assured that there might be pregnancy come out of it. And that’s where the story of aneuploidy and the measurement of the loss of the embryos preimplantation.

Kevin Patton (12:38):
Okay. This is all within your span of experience in teaching A&P and learning about A&P, that all of these things, all of these discoveries are happening. And what’s interesting to me is they’re still happening now. There are things that we thought we knew that we find out, well, they don’t work quite that way, and things that we never knew was going on. It’s like, “Oh, look at this. I wonder why that’s happening?”

Margaret Reece (13:09):
There’s so much we don’t know yet.

Kevin Patton (13:11):
Yeah. Well, and I think students find that hard to understand, to wrap their heads around. Maybe at some level, many of them do. But I know I have trouble still understanding it. They ask us a question, “Well, why does this do this?” We don’t know. And of course, in that moment, we have to check ourselves, “Is it because, me, Kevin doesn’t know? Or is it because we in science don’t know?” So a lot of times I’ll invite the student to do some research on that and come back to us. Even if they come to my office and go through what they found. We may bring it back to the classroom, it may be just between me and that student. But when it comes to reproduction, there’s so much yet to discover, and I think that even biologists make the mistake of thinking we have it all figured out.

Margaret Reece (14:07):
I love teaching. I love teaching at all levels in the classroom. I ran a laboratory for 20 years, clinical departments, research laboratory. And I taught students, I taught MDs that were going into their sub-specialties. We did master’s thesis work in there. I had undergraduates that I was teaching and I just love teaching students. I love physiology. I love the way the puzzle comes together. I think that’s what got me in the first place. I always loved puzzles. And it’s a big puzzle. We don’t know. For example, there’s been a lot of talk about the fertilized egg should be considered a person. But we don’t understand the fertilized egg yet. There are situations where the ovum’s pronucleus goes away. We don’t know why it goes away. It disappears. Maybe it went out in the second polar body. And when the sperm comes in, it’s pretty lonely. So what does it do? It doubles its own chromosomes and gets down to business. It’s supposed to do something, so starts mitosis. And what you end up with is a placenta and no fetus. No embryo.

Kevin Patton (15:45):
Oh, wow.

Margaret Reece (15:48):
But why? If the genetic material that starts to develop is all from the paternal side, it will develop into a huge placenta, which can go to carcinoma if it’s not treated. But the inner cell mass doesn’t develop and the fetus doesn’t develop.

Kevin Patton (16:13):

Margaret Reece (16:15):
But why? It’s a perfectly good set of chromosomes.

Kevin Patton (16:18):
Yeah. Yeah. Right. So why wouldn’t it?

Margaret Reece (16:21):
It’s a perfectly good 23 sets. Why not? What is it about the female chromosomes that we don’t know that have to be there for an actual fetus to develop?

Kevin Patton (16:34):
Right, right. Yeah, well, and as you point out, everything is so darn complex that any one spot where things don’t go the usual way, who knows what’s going to happen. In that case, something does happen, but we don’t know why and we don’t know what that accomplishes, if anything, in the body. It seems to get up to no good is what it does basically.

Margaret Reece (17:05):
Yes, if it goes off track, it gets up to no good essentially. I had one go to no good myself.

Kevin Patton (17:14):
Oh gosh.

Margaret Reece (17:14):
It implanted in the fallopian tube but they didn’t know that.

Kevin Patton (17:19):
Oh boy. Yeah.

Margaret Reece (17:21):
We’re a military family. I went to a military hospital. This doc says, “Maybe you just don’t really want to get pregnant.” And I said, “No, something’s wrong.” Well, one Sunday afternoon it broke.

Kevin Patton (17:34):
Oh boy.

Margaret Reece (17:35):
And they still didn’t know what was wrong.

Kevin Patton (17:40):
Really, even at that point? Wow.

Margaret Reece (17:42):
Even at that point. It was the next morning, we were overseas, they called a local doctor and local doctor says, “Look, I can’t operate in your hospital. You’re going to have to bring her to me.” So they sent me to him. And at that point, he was Scottish, he said, “Lassie, I’m going to put you to sleep and take you into the OR and I’ll do everything I can possibly to fix you and make you come out okay. But you need to know, when you go to sleep, you may not wake up.”

Kevin Patton (18:17):
Oh, wow.

Margaret Reece (18:20):
It’s that scary. And Kevin, this was years ago, now we can detect fallopian implantation. They follow with HCG test if it’s not doubling at the right length, the ultrasounds, they go looking for it. It’s in the fallopian tube. But the treatment is chemotherapy to kill the fetus. It’s an abortion.

Kevin Patton (18:47):

Margaret Reece (18:48):
And if you don’t, the mother dies.

Kevin Patton (18:51):
Right. Well, and see, I think that’s something that many of us who teach biology are not clinicians or have not had those kinds of experiences, and we may not fully understand that abortion is not strictly about ending a pregnancy for the sake of convenience. That is a possibility, but there are a lot of situations, medical situations, where what is essentially a form of abortion is the only ethical and effective treatment for some of these situations where in the case of a triple pregnancy, as you just described. But there are many other situations that are like that. And even miscarriage that’s happening on its own may need to be completed surgically or in some other medical fashion. So that technically is an abortion in terms of the procedure, but it’s fixing a problem. I think that if we don’t appreciate the wide range there is, and I think very often we forget about all those lives that are saved by those procedures, and health is protected.

Kevin Patton (20:16):
We’re going to continue this discussion with Margaret Reece in just a moment.

TAPP Orchestra (20:20):
[transition music]

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (20:25):
The free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree. I’ve been on the faculty of this online graduate program at Northeast College of Health Sciences for more than a decade. And you know what, I’m still excited about all the evidence-based teaching strategies that our learners apply as they review all the major topics in the typical anatomy and physiology course. Check out the HAPI degree at northeastcollege.edu/hapi. That’s H-A-P-I, OR click the link in the show notes or episode page.

TAPP Orchestra (21:08):
[transition music]

Basic Science

Kevin Patton (21:13):
In a previous segment, Margaret Reece and I were discussing some things that can go wrong during a pregnancy.

Margaret Reece (21:20):
The thing is though, how much should go into a beginning student’s textbook? And that’s where when I’m working on my website I’m trying to get it to a point where I can get all this information they need to know in a form that they can understand it. And there’s volumes of stuff that goes in to bringing it down to a reasonable story that can be understood. But I am not an MD, I’m a PhD. And on that website, I am not legally allowed to practice medicine of any kind or give any kind of medical advice. So I try to keep it strictly to the basic science when I write, but to try to make the basic science understandable without being overwhelming. That’s pretty much what I’ve always tried to do in the classroom, too.

Margaret Reece (22:24):
The advantage in the classroom though is you can start talking at the whiteboard or electronic board, whatnot, and putting your stuff up there, and all of a sudden the room’s awfully quiet. You turn around and look, they’re like deer in headlights. They don’t know what you’re talking about. They haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. So then you can go, “Okay guys, what did I say? What did I do wrong?” “Well, that stuff you got up there doesn’t make any sense.” So then you can back up. But when you’re writing a book or when you are doing a website or publishing that way, it’s more difficult and you have to work hard at it and you try to get feedback, but it’s not the same as the classroom, Kevin.

Kevin Patton (23:15):
Right. Well, there are several topics within anatomy and physiology that deal with things that are normally private in human life and human culture, and when we start talking about them publicly, it embarrasses people. And that’s to be expected, that’s natural for that to happen. But it’s what we do with it that comes next. So what you were describing is pushing beyond those boundaries and saying, “Come on, let’s talk about this. Let’s study this.” And so on. But we do run into something beyond embarrassment a lot when there are misconceptions and misunderstandings, and sometimes we have different ethical mindsets that we’re coming to this with, and that can really spark something that’s beyond just a typical academic debate. Academic debates I think should be welcomed in a classroom. But there are now laws on the books that prevent us from bringing up certain topics and certain areas that if they’re not state laws, then they may be local laws, or they may be just regulations within an institution.

Kevin Patton (24:29):
For example, some private religious institutions have certain topics that they may not discuss. And then when these things come up, we kind of hit a wall. Now, how do we answer the question or how do we talk about that without talking about some key part of it? And so this is something in the episode that I did on pregnancy misconceptions and abortion misconceptions that came up and that sparked some discussion in the social media. And that came up about, “Well, I can’t talk about this or that or this other thing in my school. What do I do?” And there were even some little debates that broke out among people that, “Well, I believe that a human life begins at conception.” And someone else who said, “Well, it can’t because…” Whatever reason they give. And so we get off into those things. I think it makes it even harder to teach it because now we’re not just trying to figure out what’s going on, we’re trying to figure out how to communicate it in a way that’s not going to cause a fight.

Margaret Reece (25:42):
That’s not going to cause an argument. I like to use the analogy of the zygote as a seed that may or may not germinate, may or may not set root, may or may not produce the product you hope for, which in this case is a beautiful child. That we are that closely tied with nature. Carl Sagan, the astronomer, used to say that… There’s a famous picture of him somewhere with his arm around the branch of a big old tree patting the tree saying, “The tree and me, we’re the same.”

Kevin Patton (26:25):
So the original tree hugger.

Margaret Reece (26:28):
The original tree hugger, Carl Sagan, yes. But so many of the physiologic mechanisms that Mother Nature uses, she reuses over and over and in different situations and in different species. But if it was different, if it was different, if every time the sperm hit the egg a perfect baby had come out, there’d be no way for us to evolve, for anything to evolve over time. And granted, these are big timeframes that we’re talking about, but without the mistakes, there would be no evolution. There would be no advancement. There would be no diversity of species or anything like that. There would not be life as we know it. There couldn’t be mistakes.

Kevin Patton (27:21):
Well, right, and I think another advantage of all that complexity, too, something I bring up with my students early on when we talk about signal transduction, and I use the analogy of a doorbell. A hormone is someone who comes to the door and hits the receptor and it’s like ringing the doorbell, and people inside, the dog’s going to bark, and the person’s going to jump up and go to the window and see who it is at the door and so on. It sounds like a simple process when you ring the doorbell, but it’s really there’s a lot of moving parts there and a lot of built in reactions that need to happen.

Kevin Patton (28:04):
I don’t go into great detail of signal transduction but I look at some of the major patterns, like I think we all do in A&P, and my students get kind of frustrated with that at first. It’s like, “Why do we need to know this detail? I’m going to be a nurse. I’m going to be a physical therapist. I’m going to be whatever. And I don’t need to know that.” Well, yeah, you kind of do. But setting that aside for the moment, what this complexity tells us is there’s a lot of options for how that’s going to play out. Because what if the doorbell isn’t working? You know what? The dog might still bark.

Margaret Reece (28:45):
That’s right.

Kevin Patton (28:46):
My older dog won’t bark anymore because he can’t hear the person at the door, but my younger dog can still do that. And then once my younger dog starts barking, the older dog barks. So that’s a different way it plays out and it still allows it to work. We’re such complex organisms that we need these complex mechanisms, so that under varying circumstances, we can still survive. Maybe not every time. Maybe sometimes it’s not going to work, but sometimes it’s going to work. And so I think that probably applies to this reproductive stuff too, don’t you think? That there’s all these steps and different possibilities at each step that yeah, sometimes it goes wrongs.

Margaret Reece (29:39):
So many ways it could go. So many ways it could go. Right or wrong.

Kevin Patton (29:41):
Right, exactly.

Margaret Reece (29:41):
You might achieve something new and different, a combination never seen before that’s absolutely brilliant. You might not. But my major worry is with the way the political talk is going. And I don’t know if it’ll ever become laws or not, but there is talks people would like to see the conceptus, the zygote, named a person and have the legal rights of any other person, and to do anything to destroy it anywhere is murder. Comes under murder laws. Well that is setting our medical profession up for criminal charges. And it’s not a matter of whether I feel they can defend themselves or not, but practicing OB is a difficult thing, the walk a very narrow path in terms of laws, their malpractice insurance is off the map. My fear is that they simply won’t have anybody to take care of the healthy, normal pregnancies. I’m afraid that they’ll say, “Okay, I’m an MD. I’ll work in something else. I’ll become a primary. I’ll refer it to someone else. I’ll kick the can down the street.” Or what have you. So that’s one big fear.

Margaret Reece (31:14):
Another fear is that they will lead to a ban of contraception. Some of these miscarriages repeat. The molar pregnancy I was talking about, the hydatidiform mole repeats when the female pronucleus is lost. The ectopic pregnancy, we wanted another child, we’d been working on a second child at the time and I asked the doc, “Well, can I just go ahead? How long do I have to wait before I get pregnant?” He says, “Well, you can do that. But you have a 50:50 chance the same thing happening next time.” So then it becomes a choice. “Do we want to a risk that we have a four-year-old child already? Do we want to go to contraception?” If that option is taken away from people, that’s horrible. I think it’s an idea, it’s a beautiful idea to protect life and the life for the fetus. It’s a wonderful idea. But the reality is that you can’t always do it. And the medical profession and the individual should have a chance to decide on their own which way to go with it. But that’s political. I’m not going to write that on my website because they’ll say I’m practicing medicine.

Kevin Patton (32:46):
Well, yeah, there’s that. But as educators, we get kind of get put in the middle. Not kind of. We get put in the middle. So we cannot be apolitical in our jobs, I don’t think. We’re either going to do something or not do something. There’s no walking away from it unless you walk away from your job as an educator. And so I think that all of us need to be participating in conversations like the one that you and I are having right now.

Kevin Patton (33:17):
Recently in HAPS book club, there were similar conversations going on about this and some other scientific debates and so on that involved ethical and political questions and so on. And we couldn’t get very far in those, but we got those conversations started and I think we all walked away from, and I hope you the listener will walk away from this conversation with the idea that, “Okay, I may agree with Kevin and Margaret, or I may disagree with one or the other or disagree with both of them in terms of what I’m hearing they’re saying about some of the ethical issues and so on.” But think about it at least. We need to think about it because we’re going to be there. We’re going to be on the hot seat. If we haven’t been already. We’re going to be on the hot seat. And these topics are going to come up and questions are going to come up with our students, both inside and outside the classroom. What are we going to do? What is our viewpoint on it?

Kevin Patton (34:22):
I think one of the answers is have these conversations. Another answer is try to learn as much as you can about what we know so far and keep learning. Because Margaret, as you pointed out, we’re still learning about all of this stuff. And looking back in your own experience to that, what must have been a blast of a party, when you were doing those sonograms, seeing those fetuses for the first time in the pregnant women, seeing them in a clearer fashion, look at how much has changed since that time and the fact that that happened so recently in our history of science. Wow. But let’s talk a little bit more. We’re we’re going to come back from a break. And when we do, I want to talk a little bit more about where we get some good information or where our students can get some good information about these topics.

TAPP Orchestra (35:23):
[transition music]

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (35:28):
Marketing support for this podcast is provided by HAPS, the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society, which you can check out online at theAPprofessor.org/haps, that’s H-A-P-S. Now a short time ago, I finished the summer offering of the HAPS book club and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming fall series, which starts really soon. We meet on Zoom every few weeks to discuss different parts of the book chosen for that series. Coming up for fall is the book What Inclusive Instructors Do: Principles and Practices for Excellence in College Teaching. I’ve already started reading this book and I’m really, really looking forward to discussing it with other A&P faculty in the HAPS book club. Once again, it’s theAPprofessor.org/haps, H-A-P-S.

TAPP Orchestra (36:25):
[transition music]

Medical Science Navigator

Kevin Patton (36:33):
I’m here with Margaret Reece still, and we’ve been talking about all kinds of things, including human reproduction and pregnancy. Well, we even touched a little upon when does life begin? And we came up with a definitive answer. No, we didn’t. Because that’s too hard. We don’t do that. But part of the conversation is that this is all still kind of fuzzy and still a lot of mysteries here. But I want to get back to this website of yours, Margaret, this MedicalScienceNavigator.com. I have seen that you have blog posts that you put up there, besides many other resources, you’ve put up several blog posts that outline in pretty simple terms, you were talking earlier about trying to find a simple but complete way to explain, tell that first story of how human reproduction occurs and how human development occurs. Well, I noticed that a few of your recent blog posts are about… Like this one that I’m looking at that comes up right away this morning when I went into your website is Physiology: The First Trimester of Human Pregnancy, which I had read that one before, and then Human Zygote Formation and so on.

Kevin Patton (38:00):
You’re basically, for anyone who wants it, either students or instructors, you’re basically providing them the basic information. And those diagrams really are very well chosen diagrams that you put in there. So I think it does give a clear view. Something that I’ve found is that for myself and for my students, maybe we’ve seen an explanation in the textbook or maybe we’ve seen an explanation in a paper somewhere, but it’s not until we see one or two other explanations that it finally starts to fall together for us. So I would recommend Medical Science Navigator as a source for those kinds of stories, especially these stories if we’re trying to get our reproductive biology all straightened out in our own head and helping students understand it better. So boy, it looks like a lot of work went into doing this. So I really appreciate that.

Margaret Reece (39:07):
I think I went to PubMed for that article and downloaded 25 reviews.

Kevin Patton (39:12):
Oh boy.

Margaret Reece (39:13):
To go through. I worked as a research scientist. So it’s not that hard for me to go through those papers. But how do I distill it then so that the general audience can understand what I’m talking about? And that’s teaching. Like I said at the beginning, I love teaching.

Kevin Patton (39:36):
Yeah. Well, it really comes out here, your love for teaching because all along the side, there’s all these additional things. I said we’d come back to talking about it. So what’s this 30 day challenge. Are you still doing those for students?

Margaret Reece (39:53):
Yeah, I’m still doing that. If you click on that, it goes to a sales page, tells you a lot more about what’s in it. It’s 30 days of videos. They’re short videos. 15, 20 minutes at most. And it starts out with the chemistry and the concepts that physiologists use to describe things. How we talk about compartments. The calcium compartment has no borders, not the same as a cell, as a compartment, it close. So how physiologists use that. And then I go through the three major controllers of the system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the endocrine system and how they work together. My physicist friend said, “It’s impossible for three parallel interacting controllers to work together.” I said, “No it isn’t.” And then we go into an anatomical system as if it were brand new and say, “Okay, what’s the nervous system doing here? What’s the cardiovascular system doing here? What’s the endocrine system? How does it piece all together?”

Margaret Reece (41:14):
Because the system’s work together. Anatomy, you can take one system at a time. But physiology, they’re all working simultaneously like an orchestra. They’re playing together and when one switches, the other one has to move with it. And honestly, my PhD program was five years and I think it was about four years before I got my own head around this concept of how these things work together. So again, I’m trying to distill how the working parts work together and how when one system breaks the other two systems come in to compensate to keep it going. I tell them that when an automobile engine breaks, the car stops. But when a major blood vessel breaks, the rest of the systems come into play to try to keep the system going until repair can take place.

Margaret Reece (42:14):
So that’s what that course is about. And they have a video, 20 minutes and then they have a little worksheet with about 10 or 15 questions because it’s not so much in the video, but to dig into it a little further. Sometimes I send them off to Google. Sometimes I send them here or there. But just little questions, thought questions. Because if they have a little time to think about it in their own words and put it in their own words what they just saw, then they’ll remember it better. And then at the very end, after we go through using our plan on the bone system, we go through strategies like spacing study, interleaving things to look for, like read your syllabus.

Kevin Patton (43:06):
Yeah. What?

Margaret Reece (43:09):
One of my first posts was, What Syllabus for A&P? It got a lot of traffic, Kevin.

Kevin Patton (43:17):
“Did I get one of those? What?”

Margaret Reece (43:21):
“What is that thing? What’s she talking about?”

Kevin Patton (43:24):
Well, that’s great. Yeah, I know in the many conversations we’ve had over the years, something that I’ve really appreciated is it always comes back to what strategies, I mean real life strategies, can I give my students to help them get going? Because I don’t care what level a person is teaching A&P at, or A or P at, whether it’s at a high school or middle school level, whether undergraduate A&P, whether it’s upper division A&P, whether it’s medical or professional school A&P, no matter what level it is, it’s intimidating and difficult. Even for students who really like the topic, they quickly feel like they’re overwhelmed with stuff, they feel like some of it is beyond them. And it doesn’t need to feel that way. I just always appreciate learning new things that you’ve come up with for students to really get them involved and really help them see that they can see it and that they can do it.

Kevin Patton (44:32):
So that 30 day challenge has always been intriguing to me to get them started doing that and to give them proven evidence-based strategies, such as the spaced study, the spaced practice and so on and the interleaving and so on. That’s beautiful because it really gives them tools that work. And they’re things that don’t take the student extra time. What they do is they take students along a path that makes their time work for them, so that’s great. And also on the Medical Science Navigator website, there are a number of free things that they can download such as a strategy blueprint and different various strategies. Well, there’s one Simple Secrets. Although they’re not secret, they’re on your website. So I hope I’m not giving anything away there, but no longer a secret. But the point is that for students, it is a secret because many of them just don’t know how to do this stuff.

Margaret Reece (45:41):
It’s a pep talk is what it is. It’s starting points for them to get started, things to look out for. But it’s also a pep to help them understand they can do it, that it is doable. And I think so often I’ve seen students come into the class look at the syllabus say, “I don’t think I can do this.” I lectured the end of one semester on renal physiology and respiratory physiology. We had three weeks left, gave one week to renal and one week to respiratory, and then there was going to be a final exam that covered mostly that stuff. And a student came to my office and said, “Hey doc, can I talk to you?” “Yeah.” He says, “On exam, do you really want us to know all that stuff you’ve been standing in front of the classroom talking about?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Well, if you do, we’re all going to flunk.” He says, “None of us know what you’re talking about.”

Kevin Patton (46:54):
Oh boy.

Margaret Reece (46:56):
Oh boy. I said, “Oh, come on, sit down, sit down. We got to talk more about this.” So I got back and found the students. I had a week left to go back through and try to synthesize it for them. And was the final exam was just before Christmas, and I would say 95% of them went home for a happy Christmas. But if he wouldn’t have told me, if that student wouldn’t have come to me I wouldn’t have realized.

Kevin Patton (47:24):
Right, given you that feedback, yeah.

Margaret Reece (47:27):
You need the feedback. And you have to be open for feedback. My goodness, they followed me around to the grocery store at the gas station.

Kevin Patton (47:38):
Oh my gosh.

Margaret Reece (47:39):
They were everywhere.

Kevin Patton (47:43):
Oh boy. Well, I’m so glad that you’ve taken a lot of what you’ve learned from those experiences and made them available to us. I tell you, this is a great resource. I think everybody who’s enthused about teaching A&P has this in common, other things too, but at least this in common. And that is that we like to learn about new tools, new techniques, new resources. Here’s one that we’ve all now learned about in this episode, and that is Medical Science Navigator. And it’s really a whole box of tools for both the instructors and for students. I feel confident knowing that there’s a place that I can send my students when they’re having difficulty with just their learning in general, but also with specific topics that Margaret has covered on the website.

Kevin Patton (48:36):
It’s those things like the 30 day challenge and so on, which really gives them a little mini course in how to be successful students. And they can take that learning beyond their A&P and into other courses as well. Plus, these articles on the first trimester of human pregnancy, the one that I was just mentioning, those are things that we and our students can look at and brush up on and get ideas for even further explorations. So let’s put this in our list of available tools to us.

Kevin Patton (49:12):
Margaret, I really appreciate you being with us for this episode and hearing some of the stories that you’ve had from over the years. And keep on giving us feedback, too. Because as I mentioned, you’ve given feedback before on the podcast. For you who is listening right now, give us some feedback on what you heard here, and maybe you have some things to add to what Margaret or I have said in today’s episode.

Margaret Reece (49:39):
Please, please do give feedback. Anything I’ve said, I’d love to hear what you think of it. And I tried very hard to write it in a way that people who are just beginners with this… I’m not writing for the scientists in the field. I’m writing for beginners to try to distill it. And if I don’t succeed, then I’d like to be told too.

Kevin Patton (50:06):
Right, right. Yeah, that’s great kind of feedback, isn’t it?

Margaret Reece (50:09):

Kevin Patton (50:10):
Well again, thank you Margaret. It’s always great to talk with you.

Margaret Reece (50:15):
Thank you, Kevin.

TAPP Orchestra (50:15):
[transition music]

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (50:19):
A few years ago, I asked a couple of podcasting experts to listen to this podcast and tell me what’s working and tell me what’s not working so well and what I can do to make it better. One thing they both said was that the listening experience was sort of like being in a corner bar where all the A&P professors go to hang out after work and talk shop. I got to tell you, that’s how I felt talking to my friend, Dr. Margaret Reece. Just kind of going with the flow and touching on a few different related topics. I hope your experience of this episode was similar.

Kevin Patton (51:03):
As always, I have a few links for you. If you don’t see them in your podcast player, go to the show notes or the episode page at theAPprofessor.org/122. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode. We want feedback, so direct your questions, comments, and ideas to the podcast hotline. That’s 1-833-LIONDEN in or 1-833-546-6336, or send a recording or written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. Maybe you have something you want to talk about on an upcoming episode. Hey, I’ll see you down the road.

TAPP Orchestra (51:49):
[theme music]

Aileen Park (51:54):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton (52:08):
This episode is not dishwasher safe.

TAPP Orchestra (52:10):
[theme music]

Episode | Captioned Audiogram

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Patton, K. (2022, September 8). Teaching Human Reproduction | A Chat with Margaret Reece | TAPP 122. The A&P Professor; theapprofessor.org. https://theapprofessor2.s010.wptstaging.space/podcast-episode-122.html

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Last updated: October 23, 2022 at 15:00 pm

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