2019–2020: The lost years

It's been awhile since I've added a new entry to the blog. I'd say much of that had to do with me staying busy, which is true, but it was often busy for the wrong reasons.

Back in 2019 I had a few projects brewing and I was still getting used to the new job and my lab space. During that time, things slowed a bit as I found projects for students and worked on starting new projects. Along the way our school began a new program to help under-served schools in the region. I agreed to take part in it under the (at the time) idea that it would not require more than 8 hours a week working with the students. Sadly, that 8 hours ballooned to 20 as the program struggled to find its footing. While I was happy to work with my summer student, it did take away a lot of time from upcoming projects, which was a downer.

During this time, I worked with two of our medical students on writing up a case study on one of our cadavers. Med schools will do this from time to time. As anatomists, we routinely dissect a dozen people or more a year, allowing us to catch potential anatomical variations that have yet to be documented in the literature. One of those instances occurred during our 2018 class's anatomy lab. We discovered an incidence of a single-headed gastrocnemius muscle in one of our donors. The other side leg was completely normal and our donor's medical history (what little we had) showed no issues that would indicate that this was caught during life. My students scoured the literature looking for examples of this happening before and found none. So, we went ahead and worked up the case study. My students, Nicole Fontenot and Jonathan Kouts, described the anatomy with my help and presented their work at the Arkansas Osteopathic Medical Association Conference later that year.

Left to right: Myself and future doctors, Nicole Fontenot and Jonathan Kouts with their successful AOMA poster.

Afterwards, we transferred the poster presentation to a full case study and submitted it to the European Journal of Anatomy. Review time with the journal was long and arduous, spilling over into 2020. Eventually, the paper was published.

Fontenont, N., Kouts, J., Bourke, J. 2020. Case report on the cadaveric discovery of a unilaterally absent medial head of the gastrocnemius. Eur. J. Anat. 24 (4): 289-291(2020)

Given the slowdown in 2019, I cranked up my level of research in 2020 and placed a higher emphasis on open research projects. Then CoViD-19 hit the states and every school in the country scrambled to move classes online. My college had the benefit of already having an extensive online presence with much of the courses, so transitions weren't as difficult. Nonetheless, my entire summer of research was backburnered to transfer lectures to video format and convert our in-person anatomy labs into something that could have an online component. Needless to say, 2020 was a vast disappointment.

Thankfully, 2021 has been far better. Research is once again kicking and publications are on their way (see the next entry for more on that). The aestivation is over. Time to get things kicking again.

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