Anatomy and Physiology

Dr Claudia M Diaz

B.Sc. (Hons I), PhD (Medicine)

Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science
Albury / Wodonga
Building 673, Room 307

Dr. Claudia Diaz is Senior Lecturer and Head of Discipline in Biomedical Sciences in the School of Dentistry and Medical Sciences. Claudia is also Deputy Presiding Officer of the Charles Sturt University Human Research Ethics Committee. Trained as a biomedical scientist, Claudia completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 1996, specializing as a developmental visual neuroscientist. She then worked at the University of Newcastle as a Lecturer in Anatomy until 2007. Claudia then took up a post as Associate Professor and Head of the Anatomy & Pathology department and Coordinator of the Human Bequest Program at James Cook University (JCU) from 2008-2012. She helped to establish world-class anatomy facilities for health professional students both at JCU Townsville and at the newly established Cairns campus for dental students. Since 2008, she revitalized the JCU Human Bequest Program in North Queensland, resulting in a dramatic increase in donations and consequently the establishment of vital resources for health profession students.

Dr. Diaz has a world-wide reputation for her enthusiastic and pro-active approach to teaching and learning human anatomy, introducing novel teaching approaches to engage and enhance student learning. She is passionate about teaching anatomy and offers students a wide variety of learning experiences based on a practical, hands-on approach to learning. Dr. Diaz believes that students should be trained to become self-directed, life-long learners, through their own motivation and inspiration to learn. The resources and approaches that she uses range from the use of invaluable human cadaveric tissues, to the use of models and real bones, “whiteboarding”, appreciation of surface anatomy, body drawing and painting, use of play doh as a learning tool and the use of art and music to assist and encourage learning. She has established a Facebook page for students (“Innovative Anatomy”) and an innovative ”Anatomy Cup”, an annual inter-program competition (a mini “Anatomy Olympics”), to reward students for the development of their practical learning skills. In 2011 Claudia was awarded an ALTC Citation Award and a JCU Faculty Award “For stimulating multidisciplinary first year students to learn Anatomy for life via innovative, pro-active approaches to improve engagement and learning outcomes”.

Claudia discovered her passion and affinity for anatomical education research in 2010 using anatomical education research to compliment her innovative learning and teaching approaches. Over the past ten years she has established myself in the area of anatomical education research having presented her work at numerous National and International conferences including AMEE in Austria in 2012. She has great passion for this work and her innovative teaching approaches have had a significant impact on Anatomy teaching and learning and have received widespread publicity in Australia and around the world. In particular, she has established a reputation for her work with Anatomical body painting. Her work has been published in The Australian and The Age and has been reported on web pages in over sixty countries all around the world. RMIT University received over 80,000 Facebook views in one day after publishing the Anatomical Man project in 2013, in addition to over 200,000 views on Youtube.

At Charles Sturt Dr Diaz has implemented an exclusively online Head and Neck Anatomy subject that offers  a combination of digital technologies including anatomy practical class videos and encouragement for innovative learning. This work was published in 2021.

As a traditionally trained human Anatomist, Dr. Diaz has an outstanding record of pedagogical developments (scholarship) in Anatomy teaching and learning over the past 20 years. This broad training is relevant for multidisciplinary and integrative approaches to teaching anatomy, because the boundaries between traditional disciplines (anatomy, physiology, molecular and cell biology) are no longer distinct.

Dr. Diaz has extensive experience teaching anatomy at five Australian Universities over 29 years: University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, James Cook University (JCU), Townsville and Cairns, RMIT University and La Trobe University and an online Medical University (OUM, U.S.A.). She has extensive experience teaching topographical anatomy to most health professional programs including medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, podiatry, sports and exercise science, medical radiation science, biomedical and medical laboratory science, psychology, pharmacy, chiropractic, osteopathy and Chinese medicine. In particular, she has taught human gross anatomy, histology, musculoskeletal anatomy, gastrointestinal, renal, thoracic, reproductive anatomy, sectional and imaging anatomy, embryology and biomechanics. Due to her training as a neuroscientist, she has expertise in teaching neuroscience, including neuroanatomy and physiology.

She has developed original anatomy courses such as “Medical Spanish” for students travelling to South America for practical blocks and “Dissection elective” for students interested in high level anatomy learning. She has extensive online teaching experience having worked as an invited lecturer for an online medical University – OUM, Oceania University of Medicine (U.S.A.).

She has great passion for teaching “wet” anatomy and encourages the use of human prosections as a major resource in teaching anatomy. She has developed complementary approaches to learning Anatomy and has a world-wide reputation for her innovative approaches to teach and learn anatomy and her anatomical education research. In particular, she has become a principal promotor for the use of “anatomical body painting” as a learning and teaching tool for anatomy, having her projects reported in the local, National and international media and widely on Youtube. In 2011, Claudia won a National ALTC Teaching Citation Award for her innovative work. Her approaches aim to produce self-directed learners with life-long learning skills who achieve high results and are enthusiastic and motivated. Her approaches assist with deep learning of anatomy compared with surface approaches such as memorizing and rote learning. By making Anatomy non-didactic, engaging, stimulating and fun, and by helping students to be pro-active learners she believes she is laying the foundations for a new approach to learning Anatomy. She believes her role as an Anatomy teacher is not to teach students anatomical facts, but rather to teach them the learning skills that will serve them throughout their student and professional lives. She aims to take students from the traditional view of Anatomy as a subject that requires surface learning (rote learning, memorisation) to one that can lead to deep learning through understanding and the ability to place information into a broad, relevant picture. In 2020 during the pandemic, Dr Diaz ran the only exclusively online anatomy subject in Australia. This subject was so successful that it will continue as an exclusively online subject from 2021 onwards.

Her research commitment was demonstrated by the establishment of unique human foetal tissue banks at Sydney Eye Hospital, The University of Newcastle and James Cook University (Townsville). Dr. Diaz is well regarded in her specialized field of human developmental research. Her collaborations with Professor David Pow (UQ) resulted in two important publications in international neuroscience and vision research journals (see Curriculum vitae). As a developmental neuroscientist she presented her work at National (ANS) and International (ARVO) conferences and her work was published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Experimental Eye Research, Journal of Comparative Neurology and Glia - all top journals in the area. However, in 2008 she discovered a new research passion and commenced on a path of anatomical education research. She has spent the past 12 years studying innovative approaches to teach and learn anatomy in the classroom. She has run thousands of student surveys and focus groups that form the basis of her current publications. She has run over 16 body painting projects with her student teams (student model, artists and photographer) that have provided much positive publicity for her Universities and for the work (newspapers, radio interviews, web publications, Facebook and Youtube).

She was recently invited to write a Chapter in an international education book “Education in Anatomical Sciences” regarding my innovative Teaching approaches and has recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia and Medical Science Educator. As a relatively new education researcher she was successful in receiving grants to pursue her work, particularly with the anatomical body painting as an approach to learn anatomy. At JCU she received grants to run 10 body painting projects and $10,000 from the ALTC National teaching award. At RMIT this work was supported through a STeLR grant.

She hopes to continue this work in future to further assess the innovative approaches, to study the effectiveness of the flipped classroom for teaching anatomy, and to study the effects of using these blended approaches on long term memory (deep learning).She is particularly interested in further developing ‘hands-on’’, multisensory teaching approaches to engage students and improve results.

Professional Memberships:

  • 2008- Australian Institute of Anatomical Sciences (AIAS)
  • 2009- Australian & New Zealand Association of Clinical Anatomists (ANZACA)
  • 2010- Australasian Academy of Functional Neurology (AAFN)
  • 2010- Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE).
  • 2011- Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

Diaz, C.M. (2021). Beyond the classroom: inspiring medical and health science students to learn anatomy. Medical Science Educator 31: 1703-1713. (Accepted, 2021).

Diaz, C.M., Woolley, T. (2021). “Learning by Doing”: a Mixed-Methods Study to Identify Why Body Painting Can Be a Powerful Approach for Teaching Surface Anatomy to Health Science StudentsMed.Sci.Educ.

Diaz, C.M., Linden, K. & Solyali, V. (2021). Novel and Innovative Approaches to Teaching Human Anatomy Classes in an Online Environment During a PandemicMed.Sci.Educ. 31, 1703–1713.

Diaz, C.M., Solyali, V. (2021). Autonomic Dysreflexia: Atypical complication from immediate release Tapentadol. Toxicol. Forensic Med Open J. 6(1): 9-12. doi:10.17140/TFMOJ-6-136.

Diaz, C.M., and Woolley, T. (2015). Engaging multidisciplinary first year students to learn anatomy via stimulating teaching and active, experiential learning approaches. Medical Science Educator 25(4): 367-376.

Diaz, C.M., (2013). Chapter 12. Innovation in Anatomy Teaching. In: Education in Anatomical Sciences. Editor Paul Ganguly.

Hattam, A.T. and Diaz, C. M. (2012). Medical student-initiated anatomy education: an extracurricular experience at a regional medical school. Medical Journal of Australia. 197(4): 218.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 1. Standard Operating Procedures. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 2. Use of Mortuary Equipment and Chemicals. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 3. Anatomy tutor Training. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 4. Pathology Laboratory Procedures and Management. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 5. Human Bequest Program. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Aceret, T., Martinez, Y, Diaz, C.M. and Morrison-Conway, P. (2012). Anatomy Laboratory Technical Manuals. Part 6. Volunteer Prosector Program. National Library of Australia. BIB ID 6105105.

Pow, D.V. and Diaz, C.M. (2008). AMD-like lesions in the rat retina: A latent consequence of perinatal hemorrhage. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci., 49(7): 2790-8.

Diaz, C.M., McNab, L.T., Williams, S.M., Sullivan, R.K., Pow, D.V. (2007). EAAT1 and D-serine expression are early features of human retinal development. Exp. Eye Res., 84(5): 876-85.

Williams, S.M., Diaz, C.M., Macnab, L.T., Sullivan, R.K.P., and Pow, D.V. (2006) Immunocytochemical analysis of D-serine distribution in the mammalian brain reveals novel anatomical compartmentalisations in glia and neurons. Glia.53:401-411.

Provis, J.M., Diaz, C.M. and Dreher, B. (1998). Ontogeny of the primate fovea: A central issue in retinal development. Prog. Neurobiol.,  54: 549-580.

Diaz, C. M., Penfold, P. L. and Provis, J. M. (1998). Modulation of a human endothelial cell line resistivity by human retinal glia. Aust. & N.Z. J. Ophthalmol. 26 (Suppl.): S62-S64.

Provis, J.M., Leech, J., Diaz, C.M., Penfold, P.L., Stone, J. and Keshet, E. (1997). Development of the human retinal vasculature: Cellular relations and VEGF expression. Exp. Eye Res., 65: 555-568.

Provis, J. M., Diaz, C. M. and Penfold, P. L. (1996). Microglia in human retina: a heterogeneous population with distinct ontogenies. Persp. Dev. Neurobiol., 3: 213-221.

Diaz-Araya, C. M., Provis, J. M. and Penfold, P. L. (1995). Ontogeny and cellular expression of MHC and leucocyte antigens in human retina. Glia. 15: 458-470.

Diaz,-Araya C.M., Madigan, M.C., Provis, J.M. and Penfold, P.L. (1995). Immunohistochemical and topographical studies of dendritic cells and macrophages in human fetal cornea. Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 36: 644-656.

Diaz-Araya C. M., Provis, J. M., Penfold, P. L. and Billson, F. A. (1995). Development of microglial topography in human retina. J. Comp. Neurol., 363: 53-68.

Diaz-Araya, C.M., Provis, J.M. and Billson, F.A. (1993). NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry reveals cone distributions in adult human retinae. Aust. & N.Z. J. Ophthalmol., 21: 171-179.

Diaz, C.M. and Provis, J.M. (1992). Evidence of photoreceptor migration during early foveal development: A quantitative analysis of human fetal retinae. Vis. Neurosci., 8: 505-514.

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