Position Statement on Accreditation 2005

Position Statement on Accreditation:  Accreditation of 2-semester Human Anatomy and Physiology Courses

Human Anatomy & Physiology Society
(Approved 19 November 05)


10-20-05 letter to SACS


The 2-semester/3-quarter undergraduate course usually known as "Human Anatomy and Physiology" or simply "Anatomy and Physiology" is a large introductory course that may be offered by the Biology, Zoology, or Natural Sciences departments.  Nationwide, roughly two-thirds of these courses are taught at community colleges, and the rest primarily at universities.  This is one of the larger introductory level courses, with approximately 450,000 students enrolled each year in the US and Canada. 

The majority of students taking the 2-semester A&P course are planning a career in the health sciences.  The career paths include nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, radiation technology, laboratory/medical technology, dental hygiene, pharmacology and other related disciplines. Students majoring in physical education, sports training, or kinesiology make up a smaller component of the classroom population.   At community colleges the course is often taken in the first year of college, without college-level prerequisites. Entry into any one of the career programs listed above is contingent upon successful completion of the A&P course with a grade of C or above; in competitive programs, the grade requirements may be much more restrictive. 

It is important to note that pre-medical students and biology majors do not typically take this course because it is an option that does not count towards their degree requirements.  Instead, they will take Majors Biology (or Zoology/Botany) as freshmen, followed by more specialized and detailed upper level courses in their junior and senior years.  However, the distinction between biology majors and allied health majors is an administrative convenience and not an indication that A&P is anything other than an integrative biological science. 


Anatomy and Physiology as a Biological Science:

As an introductory level survey course, A&P covers a diversity of topics, including not only anatomy and physiology, but introductory biochemistry, cytology, histology, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, nutrition, embryology, and pathology.  The coverage is so diverse, and the principles so relevant to a general understanding of modern biology, that a 1-semester version of this course is often used to satisfy the general biology requirements for non-majors students. 

Two-semester A&P courses are usually taught from the Biology, Zoology, or Natural Sciences departments; in rare cases, the sequence may be offered by another academic division (e.g. a department within an associated medical school) as a service course.   As a result, the diversity of faculty roughly approaches the diversity of topics presented within the course.


The Need for Standardization of Criteria for the Selection and Accreditation of Faculty:

Faculty qualification standards that are too lax make it difficult for the assigned faculty to teach the core curriculum topics, whereas standards that are too restrictive negatively impact both faculty and students.  It is in the best interests of all parties to use a standardized set of criteria when evaluating the faculty of anatomy and physiology courses during an accreditation review.  For example, at one college the application of overly restrictive standards, which refused to accept comparative, vertebrate, mammalian, or clinical courses among the relevant course credits required for faculty qualification, led to the dismissal of faculty and the elimination of associated A&P and Microbiology courses from the curriculum.

It is our position that Human Anatomy and Physiology is a subset of biology, and the course has extensive overlap with other biological sciences.  Opportunities to obtain an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in "human anatomy and physiology” are extremely limited, but there is so much duplication of coverage among courses in modern biology that such specialization is unnecessary. Because the basic anatomical, physiological, histological, and developmental patterns are found across the vertebrate lineage (and often across the major animal phyla), a great diversity of biology courses are directly applicable to human A&P.  We also believe that any evaluation of current or potential instructors should consider graduate and postgraduate teaching experience in courses related to anatomy and physiology toward satisfaction of minimum criteria. 

HAPS has developed accreditation standards based on a survey of successful anatomy and physiology courses nationwide.  We feel that these criteria are sufficient to demonstrate that an instructor is competent to teach a 2-semester anatomy and physiology course.  We are therefore encouraging all accreditation agencies and college administrations to use these criteria when evaluating courses or prospective faculty.   


The HAPS Standards for Instructors in Anatomy and Physiology:

The HAPS minimum criteria for teaching the introductory level A&P course are (1) a Masters degree in one of the biological sciences and (2) 18 related credit hours as defined below.  A professional degree (M.S.N., M.D., D.O., D.C. D.V.M., or other advanced clinical degrees awarded by nationally accredited institutions) may be accepted as fulfilling the degree requirements. 

Instructors must be prepared to integrate introductory level chemistry and biochemistry not only with anatomy and physiology, but with a variety of other relevant topics in biology, including cytology, cell physiology, histology, organology, microbiology, immunology, embryology, and nutrition. Because of the interrelatedness of topics in biology, a course in any one of the topics above must of necessity include a significant amount of anatomy and physiology.   Using the HAPS Curriculum Guidelines as a reference, Attachment 1 lists courses that are relevant to the teaching of anatomy and physiology at the introductory level. This list is intended as a reference and a guide, not as a comprehensive or exclusionary listing of applicable courses. 

The 18 related credit hours can be accumulated through a combination of (1) undergraduate and graduate course work, (2) teaching experience as a graduate teaching assistant or as graduate or postgraduate faculty in A&P courses, (3) postgraduate course work in human anatomy and physiology, including continuing education credits, (4) research in the field of A&P as evidenced by publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Credits should be calculated as follows:

·    for coursework: the credits awarded on the relevant student transcripts or continuing education certificate

·    for graduate TA work or as faculty while a graduate student: the credits awarded on the graduate student transcript or the credit value of the course

·    for postgraduate teaching: 3 credits for each semester taught

·    for continuing education:  the CE credits or units awarded for satisfactory completion of coursework in human anatomy and/or physiology

·    for research publications: 3 credits for each peer-reviewed journal article

Any questions regarding this position statement should be directed to the HAPS President and the Board of Directors. A current copy of the Course and Curriculum Guidelines may be downloaded from the HAPS website at http://www.hapsweb.org

Attachment 1:  Courses relevant to the teaching of human anatomy and physiology*


Human anatomy

Comparative anatomy

Vertebrate anatomy

Veterinary anatomy

Surgical anatomy

Gross anatomy


Physical anthropology


Human embryology

Comparative embryology

Vertebrate embryology






Human physiology

Animal physiology

Comparative physiology

Mammalian physiology

General physiology

Medical physiology

Veterinary physiology


System physiology (i.e. neurophysiology, cardiovascular physiology, endocrinology, immunology, respiratory physiology, etc.)

Cell physiology

Exercise physiology

Molecular biology


Ancillary courses of value**:






*Note:  This list should not be considered comprehensive.  It is meant simply to provide an indication of the diversity of topics directly relevant to human anatomy and physiology, as reflected in the HAPS Core Curriculum Guidelines.

**A maximum of 6 credits from this category ay be counted toward the 18-credit requirement.   

(Last updated on 9-20-2005)