Feelings that washed over her when she first heard of her father's heart bypass surgery flooded back. Hearing such news is one thing. Cutting into a body to reach inside and touch the heart itself is quite another.
Every anatomy lab has one hanging in a corner or prominently displayed at the front of the room: the full-scale, stark white replica of a human skeleton. Seeing how the joints hold the bones together generates appreciation for a human being's ability to stand up, move around, and live in the world. Understanding the function of each structure, whether bone or tissue, contributes to one's respect for the miracle of our lives.
"Anatomy is my passion," says Linda Walters. "I've always been intrigued by the way the body works. The uniqueness of each structure in each body, the uniqueness of each person, is a delight to see." Walters' formal education in anatomy, its structure and function, began with an undergraduate degree in physical medicine. She spent ten years working as a licensed physical therapist before returning to school for a Ph.D. in anatomy.
Today, Walters shares her knowledge and awe as professor and chair of anatomy in the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University's Glendale campus.
In the lab, groups of four students conduct dissections of cadavers. We find the structures in the body and discuss their functions. I always enjoy when students ask, 'Why do I need to know . . . ?'"
— Linda Walters, Ph.D., Glendale
Among her responsibilities at Midwestern, Walters teaches histology and gross anatomy for students in the medical school, physician assistant studies, biomedical science, and occupational therapy programs, as well as lower extremity anatomy for the podiatric medicine program. "In the lab, groups of four students conduct dissections of cadavers," says Walters. "We find the structures in the body and discuss their functions. I always enjoy when students ask, 'Why do I need to know . . . ?' To master information and make it your own, you need to learn about each structure, each function, and how everything fits together." Even if students memorized enough material to get them into class, Walters reminds them they won't be successful there without mastering the information and being able to apply it to what they encounter in practice.
In a sense, Walters 'gets her hands dirty' in Midwestern's gross anatomy lab and revels in the many opportunities for far-reaching discussion. "We have a sacred trust to be respectful of the people who have donated their bodies so we might learn how to help others," says Walters. "In the lab, most students face the starkness of death for the first time when they meet the cadavers. Suddenly, the reality of our humanness hits home. Learning to deal with issues of death and dying helps us grow professionally and personally. I see people become gentle and respectful guardians of these bodies and their families."
At Midwestern, Walters enjoys working with the "finest faculty, who are dedicated to both their students and their research. Our students are wonderful. They want to be here and are open to learning. They want to be challenged, to work hard, to succeed, so I have to give them all I can." MWU has noticed her effort: Walters has received Teacher/Professor of the Year and teaching excellence awards every year since she joined the university in 1997. In addition, she received the 2004 Littlejohn Award, Midwestern University's annual award for university-wide service. "The Midwestern community demonstrates cooperation at every level," says Walters. "Everything at MWU supports good teaching and is done to give students the best education possible."
Linda Walters, Ph.D, is a professor of anatomy in the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM) at Midwestern University's Glendale (AZ) Campus. She was an instructor in cell biology and anatomy and associate professor and chair of the physical therapy department at Finch University of Health Sciences before joining MWU. Walters is a member of Sigma Xi, the honorary science fraternity.