Anatomy postdoc wins top prize for paper

A postdoctoral fellow of the Education Program in Anatomy has been recognized by the American Association for Anatomy for her research.

Danielle Brewer-Deluce won the 2020 Early-Career Anatomist Publication Award for Anatomical Sciences Education. The prizes go to the best publication by an early-career anatomist in each of the society's three journals-- Anatomical Sciences Education, Developmental Dynamics, or The Anatomical Record.

Her research, Beyond Average Information: How Q‐Methodology Enhances Course Evaluations in Anatomy, was published in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education in spring 2019.

Brewer-Deluce is supervised by both Bruce Wainman of the Education Program in Anatomy in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Jennifer Heisz in the Department of Kinesiology within the Faculty of Science.

“I was surprised and honoured to hear the news,” Brewer-Deluce said. “I submitted the application back in January and didn’t think much of it. In academia, when you submit for awards, scholarships or grants, you hope something positive is going to come back but many times it doesn’t. This is my first paper at McMaster, so it was really exciting to be recognized on this scale for that work.”

The award-winning paper suggests that Q‐methodology, which requires participants to rank a series of context‐specific statements to express their opinion on a topic, supports course instructors in identifying areas of course strength and improvement in an evidence‐based way. This alternative to traditional Likert scales, rating scales that measure how people feel about something, represents a promising solution to ongoing course evaluation limitations.

Participants in this study were third‐ and fourth‐year students in McMaster’s Bachelor of Health Sciences program enrolled in the pathoanatomy course, offered during the 2017–18 academic year.

“This paper was really focused on a better way to do course evaluations,” said Brewer-Deluce. “The current method allows students to provide ratings using a Likert scale where the number one means you strongly disagree and seven means you strongly agree. While they are easy for students to do, they create a few problems for instructors. For instance, you end up with an average that is meant to show the effectiveness of teaching. But what does a six actually mean? I think a lot of instructors struggle with that.”

The paper was an interdisciplinary project. In addition to first author Brewer-Deluce, the authors included: Bhanu Sharma, a PhD candidate in medical sciences; Noori Akhtar-Danesh, associate professor of nursing; Thomas Jackson, adjunct professor in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program, and Wainman, professor of pathology.

Brewer-Deluce holds a BSc and MSc in kinesiology, and a PhD in anatomy and cell biology, all from Western University. She’s currently a sessional instructor with the School of Rehabilitation Science.

Wainman is senior author on the paper and encouraged Brewer-Deluce to submit her work.

“I thought Danielle’s paper had all critical aspects of a really great paper- novelty, clarity and an excellent study design” said Wainman.

“I am just so darn proud of her. Not only is this an interesting and novel paper, but the neat thing is that it was a tour de force of some of the best and brightest from the Faculty of Health Sciences.”

The award was to be presented to Brewer-Deluce at the American Association for Anatomy annual meeting in San Diego in early April. The event has since been cancelled due to safety precautions around COVID-19.