Re: [Histonet] teaching histology newbee

From:Esther Peters

Dear Malcolm,

I taught undergraduate histology for three years.  The basic slide 
preparation equipment was available and I thought it would be important 
for students to have an appreciation of all the work that goes into 
making slides even if they never had to do this again when they went to 
medical or dental school (and I had supervised and worked in research 
histology labs), or they might decide to go into histology as a career 
or use it in research.  I had contacted some other histology professors 
and learned that they only did slide reading during their labs.  I stuck 
to just normal histology, although I am also trained in pathology.  (One 
of the histology profs I contacted said he had never had any pathology 
experience, so only used "normal" prepared slides to teach.)

The course was 4 credits, one 2 1/2-hour lecture and one 2 1/2-hour lab 
each week for one semester.

Lectures followed the selected textbook (Wheater's or Gartner and 
Hiatt).  I found it useful to review the previous lecture at the 
beginning of the next lecture (after the lab that had used those 
organs/tissues).  I prepared brief bulleted notes for both lectures and 
labs and provided them to the students on what I thought they should 
really know as undergrads (realizing that if they did go on to med or 
dental school the subject will be taught in much more depth).  The lab 
lectures touched on most all of the topics Rene mentioned.

The lab was roughly half techniques and half slide reading based on the 
lecture topic.  For the techniques part we obtained a beheaded rat from 
the psychology department (which uses the brain for nervous system 
studies) and dissected it in class, and also a fish (from a field 
fisheries biologist), and clams (from grocery store), and students could 
bring in their own research animal if they wished (we had corals and 
insects).  Each was dissected and representative portions of organs and 
tissues were fixed in NBF and Bouin's (for freshwater and terrestrial 
organisms), or seawater-formalin and Helly's made with zinc chloride 
(for marine organisms).  Students then took turns trimming tissues into 
cassettes, embedding, sectioning (to make 4 slides from each block), and 
  stained with Harris's H&E, Cason's (5-min aniline blue procedure), and 
alcian blue/PAS with and without diastase.  For the final lab report, 
students were given 5 "mystery blocks" and the slides for each of those 
(usually a mix, for example liver from rat fixed with Bouin's and NBF, 
liver from fish 2 fixatives, whole clam), and then had to identify which 
  organs/tissues were present, also explain the quality of the staining 
and why the fixation might have mattered and what was wrong with the 
histoslides.   (We did not have time to work on perfecting sections, so 
just went with what was produced in one or two lab sessions.)  The final 
three labs 1 hour was devoted to working with the students as they 
studied their histoslides and providing clues to help them identify what 
they had (and pointing out why). If we found a pathologic change, 
parasite, or pathogen, I pointed it out.  It was a bit hectic at times....

  Of course, I had students who never understood that they should attend 
the lectures, really WORK on slide reading (they were given worksheets 
with directions for which slides to use, what to identify, and sketching 
and received points for completing them), and thought the slide prep was 
a waste of time.  I also had students who "got the message" and realized 
that the "mystery blocks" exercise gave them a taste of what a 
pathologist would encounter when facing a new histoslide for diagnosis.

I wish you good luck in this endeavor!  There are several good Web sites 
these days for additional histology study.  Let me know if you'd like 
more information.

Esther Peters, Ph.D.
Affiliate Professor
George Mason University

Rene J Buesa wrote:

> Hi Malcom:
> Between 1991 and 1996 I taught 10 times a Histology Review course aimed at histotechs
> that were going to take the state certification examination.
> What I am going to do is to give you the general scope of the printed course and the number 
> of pages dedicated to each subject:
> 1- Historical account with an overview of the types of techniques-----6 pp.
> 2- Laboratory mathematics (preparation of all types of solutions/dilutions)---16 pp.
> 3- Fixation/fixatives types/uses/advantages/disadvantages----11 pp.
> 4- Dehydrating/clearing agents -- 2pp.
> 5- Cutting and extremely difficult specimens to cut---18 pp.
> 6- Decalcification procedures ---4 pp.
> 7- Summary of electron microscopy---2 pp.
> 8- Principles of frozen sectioning, celloidin, carbowax and double embedding--- 3pp.
> 9- Staining of some special tissue components ---- 18 pp.
> 10- Use of the microwave oven in the histology lab./ oven calibrations --- 7 pp
> 11- Microscopy--- 5pp.
> 12- The fundamental importance of cellular surface in biology--- 5pp.
> 13- "DOS" and "DON'TS" in the histology laboratory--- 6pp.
> 14- Safety in the histology laboratory ---4 pp
> 15- Quality control ---5 pp
> 16- Fundaments of immunohistochemistry procedures --- 17 pp
> 17- Assorted information (some things I considered would help the students to know
>      regarding the histology lab/procedures)--- 6 pp
> 18- Summary of other special procedures --- 6 pp.
> This review was given during 8 hours (lunch break), earned the attendants 8 CEU and this text was the guideline to be
> "seasoned" with 2-3 "carrousels" full of slides (specially photos of the IHC procedures and
> photomicrographs of  all the "special stains" done at my lab).
> Perhaps this will help you to "chery-pick" what you want to present at your course.
> Rene J.
> Malcolm McCallum  wrote:
> Hi,
> I will be teaching an undergraduate histology this spring. For those of you who teach this, what fraction of the course do you devote to techniques versus anatomy? Do you include pathology, if so, how extensively? How extensively do you require them to understand the differences among stains, and how do you structure your laboratories? Anything else I should consider?
> Malcolm L. McCallum
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Biological Sciences
> Texas A&M University Texarkana
> 2600 Robison Rd.
> Texarkana, TX 75501
> O: 1-903-233-3134
> H: 1-903-791-3843
> Homepage:
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