The undergraduate course Anatomy and Physiology (IB 131) and its corresponding lab (IB 131L) stand out for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of IB’s most popular classes, attended by approximately 1,000 students annually. And second, its success is owed in large part to a group of dedicated IB alumni and students who donate their time to help teach the course and run the lab. Thomas Carlson delivers the lectures.
Harold Chun is the lead alumni volunteer, coming to campus weekly during fall and spring semesters and twice weekly during the summer. He graduated from Berkeley in 2016 with a BA in human biology and health sciences. As a medical scribe at Augmedix — which provides technology enabled documentation services for doctors and health systems — he assists physicians in documenting patients’ medical records. He’s been helping with the IB 131 lab since he was an undergraduate himself, and continues doing it because he enjoys the teaching aspect. He also wants to maintain his exposure to the anatomy coursework since he hopes to go deeper into the medical field.
As an alumni volunteer, Chun lectures on various topics using anatomical models and cadavers; organizes and teaches review sessions on histology; assists the lab instructors in setting up and teaching the course material; and answers individual questions from the students.
Invariably, Chun says, students’ favorite part of the course is seeing a real cadaver for the first time. “They get particularly excited about the digestive system,” he says. “They’re surprised that food can travel that far in about 16 hours. The human body is amazing.”
Isabelle Tan, an undergraduate student instructor for IB 131L, is a third-year integrative biology major with a creative writing minor. Ultimately she’d like to become a physician, possibly a surgeon. She took Anatomy and Physiology herself last year, and says it was the first course that reminded her why she had chosen to study IB. Although she’d struggled through all the rigorous lower-division requirements, she really enjoyed this course and remembers thinking, “Oh right, this is why I want to do this!”
Tan enjoyed having undergraduate student instructors herself, and loves both the subject and the opportunity to share her own experience with her peers. It’s also excellent training to become a GSI in graduate school, she says. During her own student experience, she remembers one moment in particular. “With each cadaver you get an information sheet listing their age, occupation, and how they died. Our specimen had been a ‘book-binder’ and, as a writer, I felt a special connection to him. He had clearly loved books and now his body was serving as a kind of textbook for us to learn from.”
The experience made her aware of the humanity of the cadavers, and she felt a deep gratitude for the opportunity to work with them. No doubt it was one of many such defining moments that occur during the teaching of IB 131.