"You have to be very passionate about the discipline and willing to put in a lot of time to learn the subject matter not only from books but from dissection. They would also have to learn the clinical applications while at the same time, carrying out some kind of education or basic clinical science research program”. - Anne Agur, words of wisdom to current students.
Professor Anne Agur (B.Sc.O.T; M.Sc; Ph.D.) began her post-secondary education in the Occupational Therapy undergraduate program but she always had an interested in medicine, practical and clinically related subjects so she also studied the undergraduate medicine pre-requisites. She was then sent on a different path by her mentors in anatomy who had asked her to start teaching in the labs. In her fourth year, Anne did a research lab which eventually led to a Masters in Science. After that, Anne studied under retired a few Emeritus professors who were trained by Dr. J.C.B. Grant as faculty. These educators also provided her with the basis of practical clinical anatomy. It is because of these mentors that Anne learned that the University of Toronto is different because of Dr. Grant. Anne notes, “Mentors are a wonderful thing!”
Aside from her mentors, Dr. Grant has always been a big influence on Anne's career. She explains that, “Dr. Grant was always focused on the most important structures and used clinical examples. Even in the 1940s this was not the normal method of teaching Anatomy in Europe, it was just Dr. Grant’s teaching style. When the war came along, they could no longer use the German Atlases, which were used world-wide. The first edition of Grant’s Atlas was two smaller-volumes because they could not get out a large book right away. The second edition was the first singular volume.” And so began another part of Anne’s career path – her involvement with editing Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy.
In 1991, Anne first began her role as editor of the Grant's Atlas of Anatomy (1943), then in its 9th edition. It had been nearly ten years since the last edition was published in 1983 and the text was in need of updating to reach a new generation of medical students. Anne was offered the role of editor after she wrote two reviews about Grant’s Atlas. At that time, the Atlas was not coloured, nor were many other texts at the time, but it had been nearly ten years since the last publication. Colour was essential at that point as many of the overlays from of previous editions were becoming worn out. All of the original grant’s art was at first air-brushed and then scanned, in high-resolution for the time. Another suggestion was to include more up-to-date medical imagining in important places. Now in its 14th edition, high-resolution scans were used for archiving purposes and Biomedical Communications at the University of Mississauga recoloured all of the original carbon-dust illustrations. The publishers have always remained absolutely true to the original illustrations and with the re-colouring of the pictures with high-resolution it has enabled better fidelity to the shading in the carbon dust so it does not become a flat image. The way Grant Atlas is drawn, it is not a flat image and it is rich in shading. Anne’s face lights up with pride as she explains her early involvement with Grant’s Atlas adding, “It was an honour to be asked to be part of the publication.”
The most exciting aspect of Anne’s work is her students and being able to educate future clinicians. I’m excited about my anatomical research and presently we have two clinical studies in trial. I also enjoy mentoring my graduate into whatever they want to go into. As a mentor, you have to listen to the needs of students because everyone is an individual learner in some way. You have to listen to what they are telling you so you can adapt resources for their needs. While also keeping in mind, the needs of the curriculum, best practices and the standards of the profession.
Anne’s next big challenge is to further develop the clinical research program. Recently, she started a brand new independent graduate course in anatomy for Biomedical Communications students and other for graduate students, most of whom would like to teach anatomy in some way. Anne explains that “it keeps the anatomy profession strong for the next generation of anatomists, especially for those who are going to be teaching. It also encourages the next generation of anatomists to go beyond teaching because there is still so much more research to be done.”
Anne and her colleagues continue to map the body using digitization. They are looking at muscle in great detail, and two of their clinical trials are involved with anatomical studies of joint innervation, which relates to ultrasound guided procedures. Some of this anatomy has not yet been looked at in detail, especially related to modern imaging techniques. One might assume that much of this anatomical modeling has already been done but this is not the case if you are looking at muscle and how muscle is put together. It has been seventeen years that we have been working with computer scientists to use a process called digitization. In doing so, we collect 3-D coordinates so we can reconstruct muscles as it appears in the specimens. We then analyze them and develop ultrasound protocols. We have engineering colleagues who are doing finite modeling. It’s all very exciting, and interdisciplinary.