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Des Moines University’s master of science in anatomy program reflects the breadth of the science’s four major disciplines with depth in each and practical experiences in teaching and research.

Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or above in the courses gross anatomy, cell and tissue biology, neuroanatomy and human development. Students must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above within the entire master of science curriculum and must successfully complete the comprehensive examination in anatomy.

Gross anatomy

The structure of the human body is presented in lecture, laboratory and computer learning models. Cadaveric dissection of each region of the body demonstrates normal form, common variations and pathological conditions. Normal function and clinical significance are stressed and reinforced through presentations by medical personnel. Additional lectures integrate the early development of body form and cellular organization with regional anatomy.

6.5 credits. No prerequisites.

Cell and tissue biology

A comprehensive study of human cell biology, basic tissues and organ systems (e.g., cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, integumentary and lymphoid). Wherever possible, the study of histology is translated to clinical relevance. The course consists of regularly scheduled lectures and laboratory periods. In laboratories, students study the light and electron microscopic structure of cells, tissues and organs through atlases, prepared slides, virtual microscope and computer-assisted learning software.

3 credits. No prerequisites.


The structural and functional organization of the central nervous system is presented through lectures and laboratory/computer demonstrations on parts of the brain and spinal cord. The course covers the role of the brain and spinal cord in sensory perception and movement of the human body, including organs and behavioral responses. Wherever possible, case studies and appropriate syndromes are also presented.

2 credits. No prerequisites.

Biochemistry and molecular genetics

An introductory molecular description of biological structure and function. Normal metabolism and gene expression are given the major emphasis. Several common genetic diseases and metabolic disorders serve to contrast normal and perturbed human biochemistry, as well as demonstrate the clinical implications of human biochemistry.

4.5 credits. No prerequisites.


An introduction to the various subdisciplines of microbiology, with emphasis on facts and principles pertinent to the broad requirements for understanding infectious diseases. Bacterial, mycotic, parasitic and viral pathogens are considered, with major emphasis on host-pathogen interactions and pathogenic mechanisms. Basic principles and clinical relevance of immune mechanisms are presented. Laboratory integration focuses on the common diagnostic modalities pertinent to the various infectious agents.

6 credits. No prerequisites.

General pathology

Develops a basis for the biological interpretation of disease processes by integrating the changes in structure and function associated with diseases and the relationship of symptoms to lesions.

2.5 credits. Prerequisites: Biochemistry and cell and tissue biology.


An introduction to basic principles of physiology from the cellular level (membrane potentials, receptor physiology, transport mechanisms) to organ systems (cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, gastrointestinal, urinary-renal and endocrine). Emphasizes regulatory control interactions needed for a holistic understanding of homeostasis and pathophysiology of humans. The course uses lectures, laboratories and clinical scenarios to teach the control mechanisms. Physiology is an intermediate step in the progression of knowledge acquisition necessary for subsequent courses.

6.5 credits. Prerequisites: Biochemistry.

Cell biology

This is an advanced course in cell biology designed to familiarize the students with modern concepts of cell and molecular biology. Topics to be covered will include transcription, translation, intracellular trafficking, cell-cell signaling, membrane transport, and structure and function of DNA.

3 credits. Prerequisites: Biochemistry.

Seminar in anatomy

Review, discussion, and presentation of topics related to anatomy research and teaching.

1 credit. Prerequisites: Gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, cell and tissue biology and human development.

Human development

An introduction to the basic principles and concepts of human development from zygote to birth. Wherever possible, developmental processes will be translated to clinical relevance.

2 credits. No prerequisites.

Teaching anatomy

This course will allow students to participate in laboratory and/or lecture instruction in one or more of the courses offered by the anatomy department.

4 credits. Prerequisites: Gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, cell and tissue biology and human development.

Advanced dissections in anatomy

The course will allow students to dissect areas of the human cadaver to further their knowledge of anatomical structure. Students, under supervision by the faculty, will prepare prosections of specific areas of the human cadaver and prepare a computer tutorial with self assessment. These tutorials will be placed on the student intranet and departmental webpage.

2 credits. Prerequisites: Gross anatomy.


Research under the supervision of a graduate faculty member.

1-3 credits. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

Basic surgical skills

Under the direction of surgical residents and surgical nurses, students learn basic aseptic techniques and to apply anatomy vis-a -vis clinical and operative skills. Skills emphasis includes suturing and knot tying, foley catheter and nasogastric tube insertion, peripheral venous access, venous cut-down and catheterization, cricothyroidotomy, chest tube insertion, pericardiocentesis, arterial puncture and central line placement. Student application of new psychomotor skills is provided through hands-on procedure and simulation labs.

1 credit. Prerequisites: Gross anatomy.

Cranial Nerves

This course is designed to provide an understanding, through clinical case discussions, of the structure and function of the cranial nerves and the main neurological deficits resulting from cranial nerve lesions. It is assumed that the student taking this course will have a reasonable working knowledge of the structure and function of the cranial nerves.

1 credit. Prerequisite:  Neuroanatomy.

Problem-Based Anatomy

The problem-based anatomy course is designed for students who desire a greater appreciation of the clinical relevance of anatomy and will be of educational utility to the student preparing for board examinations.  The course will utilize lecture and discussion to guide students through selected clinical vignettes from the text, Problem-Based Anatomy.  Each clinical vignette provides an educational framework in which the student can apply their fund of anatomical knowledge to clinical situations. Another value-added attribute of the course is its integrated approach to the field of anatomy.  Therefore, wherever appropriate the clinical vignettes will explore the various subdisclipines of anatomy.  These include anatomic pathology, cell biology, embryology, gross anatomy, histology, neuroanatomy, and radiologic anatomy. 

1 credit.  Prerequisites:  Consent of instructor