Dr. Wilfredo López-Ojeda has combined a love of physiology with his artistic eye in creating his first textbook and lab manual, “Integrated Human Physiology.” The peer-reviewed book, which was printed in January and published by Hayden McNeil Publishing Company, will also be available as an e-book soon.
The book approaches physiology in an integrated way, just the way the human body works. It features models who work and study at UCF and incorporates formatting and colors that help the brain learn best, according to neuroscience.
“My goal was to re-invent the wheel when it came to a physiology book,” said Dr. López-Ojeda, an assistant professor at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “There are already too many outstanding human physiology textbooks that include typical presentation methodologies. Physiology is math, chemistry and physics applied to the human body. I wanted to make physiology eye-catching, tangible and easy to understand.”
Illustrations include simple drawings that show tissues next to actual histology micrographs that Dr. López-Ojeda created to show real human tissues. Students see the simple version first in almost a cartoon form. Then they graduate to a more complicated, real-life histology micrograph. Dr. López-Ojeda says too many undergraduate students see complicated mechanisms and math equations in physiology books and become overwhelmed. Their first reaction: “I don’t get this. I quit.” The goal of his book, he says, is to illustrate human physiology — integrated with other basic sciences – in a way that is relevant and attractive to the eye, yet does not demean the science.
The book’s colors are soothing pastels, not dark, intimidating, depressive hues. Dr. López-Ojeda has also incorporated his passion for exercise and yoga to illustrate the complex science. One of the UCF models, whose photo introduces the chapter on metabolism, is doing yoga’s Cobra pose, which is believed to improve metabolism by stimulating the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids in the body.
The book is organized by systems, just like the human body, because “human organs do not work in an isolated manner,” Dr. López-Ojeda said. “The human heart isn’t just a piece of muscle. Its functions not only interface all body organs, but also support all human systems.”
Lab exercises and activities accompanying each chapter are also simplistic in design. Take neurophysiology, the study of how the nervous system works. Students can’t see inside their own brains. They can’t touch neurotransmitters or synapses. But they can see and touch their skin. So Dr. López-Ojeda integrates the skin to discuss how stimuli like temperature, touch and vibration are perceived by specific cutaneous receptors and interpreted by the brain. “My goal is to teach neurophysiology employing a simple concept that students will understand, learn and remember,” he said. “Everyone knows the skin.”
Dr. López-Ojeda’s scientific interests are many. As an undergraduate, he researched the retina – how certain neurotransmitters convey what we see. As a graduate student he focused on topics including muscular dystrophinopathies, the impact of a prenatal stress on the developing embryo and cocaine addiction among women. More recently he has examined natural and integrative medicine therapies for the treatment of the cocaine-addicted brain. He said that even as a child he was always curious about how the body works.
“I am a scientist and clinician at heart,” he said. “I’m always questioning, ‘What? How?’ It’s just a part of me. I always need to find out how things work and if the process can be improved.”