WVSOM Professor Writes Textbook of Muscle and Bone - West Virginia Daily News
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WVSOM Professor Writes Textbook of Muscle and Bone



Local professor Peter Ward has now literally written the book on muscle and bone anatomy and physiology.

Netter’s Integrated Musculoskeletal System: Clinical Anatomy Explained takes a holistic approach to learning about the musculoskeletal system. While working as a professor at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), Ward first had the idea for this type of book eight years ago, but didn’t start writing until about two years previously.

“A lot of medical schools are switching up their curricula to not be based around topic areas, like physiology or pharmacology, but to be more systems based content,” Ward said. “This is meant to fill a gap because there’s almost no textbooks that cover multiple topic areas in relation to one system. … Hopefully, if places adopt it, it’ll provide a continuous narrative, so students get one voice. … [Professors at WVSOM used to] tell people to ‘go read this anatomy book for this stuff’, then ‘go read the histology book for this stuff.’ … The plan is that this will simplify where they are going for their information and create a single voice, which I hope is comprehensible and pleasant, as pleasant as a textbook can be.”

The textbook’s front cover

This is a prime reason for the holistic system approach Ward used in writing the textbook, cutting down the number of textbooks WVSOM and other medical school students need to purchase.

“It’s meant to be a spiral approach that lets you, theoretically, start with zero knowledge of anatomy and still read this entire textbook,” Ward explained. “It would be [difficult], like reading Proust or Hegel, but you could still do it if you really set yourself to it. … iI doesn’t just talk about anatomy in terms of the bones and muscles, it’s looking at the musculoskeletal system at all levels. Starting with the gross anatomy, which is the stuff you can see, then the microanatomy, the cells and the tissues, then we go into the physiology and the biochemistry and how the molecules allow for muscular contraction to happen. We then jump to embryology and neuroscience related to the system. Then we finish off with four dense chapters on each body region — the back, upper level and lower level torso.”

When COVID-19 shutdowns began, Ward was already in semi-isolation, working on the textbook. The lockdown restrictions gave him more time to work on the later chapters. Ward noted he often kept a stack of reference books nearby as he wrote, with three typically spread out across the workspace, compiling the structural and functional information about each muscle and bone anatomy, histology, embryology, physiology, and biochemistry together into one place.

“Nobody is trained as a musculoskeletal-ologist, you’re an anatomist or a physiologist or a pharmacologist,” Ward said. “I teach martial arts and that’s just another way to study anatomy — I’ve just always loved the musculoskeletal system.”

As he selected medical illustrations, Ward was approached to use the Netter name for the textbook, an established name in the textbook community.

“The medical illustrator whose images I’m using is a guy named Frank Netter. He passed away quite a while ago,” Ward explained. “He’s a very famous medical illustrator … people are going to buy Netter books just because of the name. [When I was offered to use the name], they didn’t have to try very hard to talk me into it. There’s another artist named Carlos Machado that does updated illustrations in that style and he’s just a phenomenal illustrator.”

The book also features an index of word roots, such as kypho, a Greek word that refers to a specific spiral curvature, allowing students to break down long medical words into their basic parts. There’s also an index for anatomical structures with two names, such as myelin-sheath gaps, a name that describes what the structures are, also being called the Nodes of Ranvier, named after researcher Louis-Antoine Ranvier in the 19th Century.

The second half of the title, Clinical Anatomy Explained, is the name of Ward’s Youtube channel, covering exactly what it claims to cover. Ward noted his publisher had the idea and he enthusiastically agreed.

Ward also thanked the publisher, his family, and everyone who provided him a hand during the writing process. This includes WVSOM, which he noted helped make the textbook happen on the legal end.

With the book now in print, he can take a break from writing, then could eventually integrate feedback into a Second Edition.

“Academics being academics, I’m prepping myself for slightly brutal criticism and well-meaning, constructive feedback,” Ward said. “Either way, it’ll make it better when it’s done. … One of the nice things about textbooks is that it’s anticipated that they’ll be changed. You’ll get a second and third edition, so I can only make it better as time goes by.”

Dr. Peter Ward

Joking that if he gets “amnesia and forgets what an ordeal it was to write” the textbook, other bodily systems might eventually get the same treatment.

Netter’s Integrated Musculoskeletal System: Clinical Anatomy Explained! is available digitally now, with a print version available starting August 6.

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