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2011 message to anatomists and anatomical associations
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2011 message to anatomists and anatomical associations from the President of the IFAA

It is often said that Anatomy is in crisis and that its decline is inevitable. I do not believe this but, if we continue to sit complacently watching events, we will certainly be overwhelmed by changes that, while of themselves not intrinsically hostile to our discipline, will leave Anatomy in a compromised situation. This might not matter if we are merely concerned with our own individual concerns as anatomists. However, our duty is to ensure that the patients and health care professions that we serve are not disadvantaged. Of course, ours is one of the oldest of sciences and we can also justify our presence by the quality of our research.

This preamble is provided to inform you that the International Federation of Associations of Anatomy (IFAA) will not sit idly by while there is much to do to bolster the reputation of our discipline. I, as President of the IFAA, together with an excellent Executive Committee, have resolved to "make a difference" - a clich└ in many ways but nevertheless a promise from us leading up to the IFAA Congress in 2014.

In addition to our normal activities centring around the bringing together of anatomically-related associations worldwide, the Executive Committee is developing an ambitious programme to enhance and foster Anatomy. We are, of course, immensely excited by the prospect of holding the IFAA Congress at Beijing. The plans being laid by the Chinese Association of Anatomists are sure to deliver a memorable scientific (and cultural) meeting.

Since the last Congress at Cape Town, we have established two Federative International Programmes (FIPs). The Federative International Programme for Anatomical Terminologies (FIPAT), under the direction of Lutz Volrath, is promulgating and developing our terminologies. Presently, Terminologica Anatomica (TA), Terminologica Histologica (TH) and Terminologica Embryologica (TE) have been completed. These terminologies are now provided on the internet ( and thus available for further elaboration by individual anatomists and by terminological subgroups within national societies. It has been decided that henceforth the terminologies will be web-based, though we are seeking ways to enable "printing on demand" for those who require hardcopies. To augment the existing terminologies, we are developing terminologies for oral anatomy (Terminologica Odontologica) and for anthropology (Terminologica Anthropologica), and a neuroanatomical terminology is being planned. Each terminology will not only require a thorough review of the terms used by anatomists but also consideration of the usage of anatomically-based terms in the clinic. A major difference from previous procedures relates to the organisation of FIPAT that ensures that all terminologies are being reviewed simultaneously and not sequentially.

The Federative International Programme for Anatomical Education (FICAE), under the direction of Wojciech Pawlina, has been established and this programme has plans in place to:

   identify, record and analyse good practice in anatomical education (via a database that provides key references based on pedagogic research (both for and against) for the variety of teaching and learning methods that we encounter.

   establish core syllabuses for all the anatomical sciences that will provide international standards for anatomical education.

   provide information concerning training programmes for young anatomists, whether or not clinically qualified, and suggest best practice.

In addition to the FIPs, we have a variety of Federative International Committees (FICs). A recently formed Federative International Committee for Anatomical Research (FICAR) is being developed by Eveline Baumgart-Vogt. This group will formulate an action plan to recognise the extent and variety of anatomical research, to encourage young researchers, to seek opportunities for laboratory exchanges, and to assess the quality of anatomical research and thereby to recognise centres of excellence. Pedagogic research will remain the preserve of FIPAE. The Federative International Committee for Humanities and Ethics (FICHEM), under the direction of Gareth Jones, will soon be providing advice for institutions receiving human cadavers for anatomical examination by publishing principles underpinning best practice for body donation. Such principles may also aid legislative authorities. The Federative International Committee for Scientific Publications (FICSP) is chaired by Stephen Carmichael. This FIC brings together all the editors of journals publishing articles in the anatomical sciences in order to debate current issues, to share good practice, to distribution information about journal contents via the IFAA newsletter (Plexus), and to inform anatomists of matters relating to the production of quality publications. Our Federative International Committee for International Development (FICID), chaired by Ashiru Oladapo, is formulating an important action plan to enable us to seek ways of helping anatomical societies and anatomists within countries that are economically and/or technologically less developed.

Of course, matters of governance and management of the IFAA are important and we will, as before, review our vision, remit and constitution. Presently, a "task and finish" group has been set up to advise on the procedures leading to the recruitment of officers of the IFAA. Important as this undoubtedly is, the IFAA has already spent many years dealing with governance issues as an essential component of the drive to reinvigorate and revitalise the federation. Thanks to the important work and contributions of the Immediate Past President, David Brynmor Thomas, we are now able to make good on promises and to place policy and action at the centre of our activities.

I look forward to communicating with you again as we proceed through these crucial times and I urge everyone to consider how best they might help our efforts. In particular, each national society must play its part by ensuring that their representatives are properly identified and notified to the Secretary-General and Treasurer of the IFAA. In turn,  the representatives of the national societies must report back and forth between the IFAA and their societies and the national societies must report, debate and engage with the activities of the IFAA. It is, after all is said, your IFAA and the only federation of anatomical societies organised on a global scale. It should, of course, not be forgotten that our newsletter (Plexus) is an important means of communication between the IFAA, anatomical societies and individual anatomists and the editor (Helen Nicholson) is always grateful for articles to publish. To enhance further communication, the Secretary-General (Friedrich Paulsen) is active in the development of a new, more interactive and attractive website for the IFAA.

Thus, the IFAA is embarking on an ambitious programme and we are determined to succeed. Let us, therefore, now turn away from pessimism and embrace positive and constructive change that enhances the reputation of our important discipline, the anatomical sciences in all its forms.

Bernard Moxham

President IFAA.                 May 2011

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