School of Medical Education

Staff Profile

Dr Iain Keenan

Lecturer in Anatomy


Current role

Teaching: Iain has lectured and taught practicals in gross anatomy, embryology and histology for the MBBS programme since 2012 has been module leader for the Phase I MBBS Life Cycle 1 and Life Cycle 2 units of study since 2014. Iain also delivers anatomy teaching for dental, biomedical and postgraduate medical and biomedical degree programmes.

Teaching Excellence Award: Iain received the Teaching Excellence Award for Innovative Teaching Methods (Faculty of Medical Sciences) in 2015, an award that is voted for by Newcastle University students. Iain has also been nominated for this award in 2014 and 2016. 

Research: Iain is principal investigator for a research programme in anatomical and medical education. Iain's current research theme and projects concern investigating transdiscipline student partner approaches for strategic design, development and evaluation of innovative and artistic learning methods in anatomy. Iain is also developing research projects to produce an online resource for embryology learning, and to explore the impact of social media in teaching and learning. Iain currently has manuscripts accepted and in preparation for submission to anatomical and medical education journals. Iain is also a reviewer for anatomy and medical education journals.

Artatomy and NICAP Award: Iain has developed a network of student partners and artistic, medical and academic collaborators in order to enhance, develop and expand his research which has allowed him to found Artatomy, an exhibition of anatomical artwork created by medical and biomedical students that was presented at the Centre for Life in Newcastle during summer 2015 and was funded by Iain's 2014 NICAP Award.

Anatomical Society: Iain has been an ordinary member of the Anatomical Society Council since December 2015. He is also Deputy Website Management Officer and Social Media Editor for the Anatomical Society and is a member of the Society membership and meetings committees.

Higher Education Academy: Iain has achieved Fellow of the Higher Education Academy status, having achieved Descriptors 1 and 2 of the UKPSF (United Kingdom Professional Standards Framework). 

Background and previous roles

Iain has broad knowledge and experience in anatomical and biological sciences having undertaken medical science research from beginning his doctorate in 2000 and leaving the field in August 2012 to take up a teaching fellow position in anatomy. Iain has specific expertise in anatomy, developmental biology and embryology and has conducted research in several model systems within four world-class research institutions. Iain's biomedical research has yielded several publications in recognised peer-reviewed journals.


  • PhD, Biology, University of York (2004)
  • BSc (Hons), Biology, University of York (2000)
  • Masters in Medical Education (2016, expected)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Education (2015)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Education, Merit (2014)
  • Postgraduate Certificate of Advanced Studies in Academic Practice Modules 1 and 2 (2013)
  • Newcastle Teaching Award (2013)

Career history

  • Teaching Fellow in Anatomy, School of Medical Education, Newcastle University (2012-2015) Academic teaching and scholarship position involving lecturing and delivering practical sessions in gross anatomy, histology and embryology for MBBS, BMS and BDS degree programmes, pedagogic research in anatomical and medical education.
  • Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University (2010-2012) British Heart Foundation funded postdoctoral research fellowship investigating the role of Wnt planar cell polarity signalling and Rac1 in the regulation of vertebrate cardiovascular development.
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of St Andrews (2007-2008) Industrially funded research project investigating the regulation of gene expression by insulin-like growth factor signalling in muscle growth.
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Dundee (2004-2007) Cancer Research UK fellowship investigating fibroblast growth factor and mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling in the regulation of gene expression in vertebrate development and cancer.
  • PhD Student, University of York (2000-2003) BBSRC studentship involving studying the regulation of Cdx gene expression by fibroblast growth factor and Wnt signalling in head to tail patterning during vertebrate development.

 Society Memberships

  • The Anatomical Society
  • Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME)
  • Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE)
  • British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB)
  • The Alliance for Useful Evidence


Iain teaches gross anatomy, histology, physiology and embryology for Stage 1, Stage 2 (A100) and Accelerated (A101) of the MBBS degree programme. Iain teaches the Stage 1 MBBS units of study Molecules to Community (MTC), Life Cycle (LC) Nutrition, Metabolism and Endocrinology (NME), Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Renal Medicine (CRRM) and the Stage 2 unit Thought, Senses and Movement (TSM). Iain leads the gross anatomy courses in Thorax and Abdomen for Stage 1 MBBS and Lower Limb for Stage 2 and Accelerated MBBS. 

Iain is unit leader for the LC1 and LC2 Stage 1 units of study in 2014/15.

Iain  delivers anatomy teaching for the MRes Surgical Anatomy, the biomedical MSc module CVRS, Biomedical Science and BDS degree programmes and facilitates practical anatomy sessions as part of the widening participation programme for prospective MBBS students.

Iain supervises Stage 4 MBBS Student Selected Component (SSC) student projects (two in 2014) and summer vacation scholarship projects (four in 2014).

Iain is an assessor for Phase I, SSC and MRes assignments and presentations and is involved in progress assessment standard setting.

Iain has previously taught molecular biology and biochemistry as part of the Biomedical Science BSc programme at Newcastle University and has extensive experience in laboratory-based teaching and laboratory supervision of BSc, MRes and PhD students in medical sciences, molecular biology and developmental genetics.


1. Student partner approaches for evidence-based strategic design, development and evaluation of a novel ORDER (observe-reflect-draw-edit-repeat) artistic learning process in anatomy education

M. Backhouse, C. Thandi, M. Fitzpatrick, J. Selwyn-Gotha and I.D. Keenan

Medical and artist partners have developed ORDER to increase the variety of anatomy learning methods. Our data from a mixed-method evaluation shows ORDER can enhance student learning, engagement and experience.

2. Student partner approached for evidence-based strategic design, development and evaluation of ORDER for skill development of clinical imaging and cross-sectional anatomy

G. Suthermaraj, M. Fitzpatrick, J. Selwyn-Gotha and I.D. Keenan

We have modified our ORDER process for use in enhancing skill development in interpretation of clinical images and cross-sectional anatomy and we aim to build on a pilot study by evaluating the value of our process.

3. Student partner approaches for evidence-based strategic design, development and evaluation of artistic modelling as a teaching and learning method in anatomy education

C. Thandi, J. Selwyn-Gotha and I.D. Keenan

This NICAP (Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice) funded transdiscipline project has been carried out during 2014/15 in collaboration with a professional artist  and has initially involved development of artistic 3D modelling techniques for teaching anatomy of the thorax, abdomen and lower limb. The value of these techniques in enhancing learning and experience of medical students will be evaluated using mixed-method approaches. Medical student and artist partners will have key roles in design, development and implementation of the project. There will also be dissemination and networking events for staff and students from art and medicine held as part of this project. 

4.Student partner approached for evidence-based strategic design, development and evaluation of interactive online video tutorials for gross anatomy, clinical imaging, histology and embryology. 

J. Hutchinson, C Thandi, G. Suthermaraj and I.D. Keenan

We have developed online anatomy tutorials to enhance student learning. We aim to evaluate the value of our tutorials in fulfilling this purpose,

5. Student partner approaches for investigating use of social media as a tool to enhance anatomy learning and to promote student engagement medical education

A Stubbs, J. Matthan and I.D. Keenan

Our preliminary pilot data suggest that the use of social media as a teaching and learning tool can enhance the student learning experience of anatomy and can promote engagement of students in educational content. Future studies and analysis will explore this area in greater depth and address how social media can be used further in medical education.

6. Artatomy: A transdisciplinary student partner approach for development and delivery of an exhibition event for the presentation of anatomical artwork created by medical students

E. Davison, J. Hutchinson, A. Stubbs, A. Tiri,  I.D. Keenan

A team of undergraduate medical and biomedical students in collaboration with a professional artist have researched, organised and curated two Artatomy exhibitions of student artwork produced in drawing workshops and collated from a wider call for submissions. Our opening event on campus for staff and students has been followed by a durational show that it is anticipated will attract wide academic and public audience engagement.