Lela Giannaris, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Division of Translational Anatomy in the Department of Radiology at UMMS. Dr. Giannaris joined the UMMS faculty in 2010 after earning a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Boston University School of Medicine. She previously worked at the Belfer Gene Therapy Core Facility at Weill Medical College of Cornell University performing preclinical testing of viral vectors for the treatment of Batten’s Disease. She earned a BA degree in Biology, with a concentration of Neurobiology and Behavior, from Cornell University. Dr. Giannaris has conducted neuroscience research on various topics, such as gene therapy for neurodegenerative diseases and quantitative neuroanatomy in aging.
Dr. Giannaris currently serves as Chair of the first year Foundations of Medicine (FOM1) curriculum committee, Director of Anatomy and Course Co-Leader of the Development, Structure, and Function (DSF) course, as well as core faculty in the second year Brain: Track 1- Clinical Neuroanatomy course. The DSF course is the largest foundational course for first-year medical students at UMMS and integrates the disciplines of anatomy, embryology, histology, radiology and physiology. In this educational leadership role, she has been focused on effecting several changes to improve the quality of the student experience, increase integration among disciplines, and emphasize clinically relevant anatomy. Within the Department of Radiology, Dr. Giannaris has worked closely with colleagues to integrate teaching of clinical anatomy with diagnostic radiology. As part of the DSF leadership team, she was lauded with the Educational Achievement (Star) Award in 2019 for work in transforming this major foundational course into an engaging vertically and horizontally integrated learning experience for UMMS medical students. Dr. Giannaris has also been recognized by students for excellence in teaching with Outstanding Basic Science Medical Educator Awards in 2015 and 2020. She is currently overseeing the development and implementation of a longitudinal anatomy curriculum as part of the UMMS curriculum revolution efforts, a major collaborative effort with basic scientists and clinicians across the institution. She is inspired by the collaborative work and innovation that comes from engaging with colleagues on interprofessional teams.
In addition, Dr. Giannaris directs the Summer Prosection Program for rising second-year medical students who are interested in receiving further training in anatomy and developing educational materials to enhance the anatomy curriculum. Each year she also engages students in the Summer Curriculum Development Program and has produced innovative curricular resources in collaboration with them. She incorporates feedback and carefully evaluates each resource and curricular element with an eye on both content and the student experience. She enjoys working with students and strives to create a positive and inclusive learning environment.
Dr. Giannaris’ research interests include curriculum development, implementation and assessment for gross anatomy and neuroanatomy in undergraduate medical education. She also has a strong interest in the hidden curriculum that the anatomy dissection experience offers. She works to promote humanism in her teaching and has implemented special ceremonies for students both at the start and end of the anatomy course, in addition to well-established annual anatomical gift donor memorial service.
In addition to her many service contributions at UMMS, Dr. Giannaris is also involved on the national level with anatomy professional organizations. She is former chair and now presidential appointee on the Educational Affairs Committee (EAC) of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA) and a member of the Professional Development Committee (PDC) of the American Association of Anatomists (AAA).
Dr. Giannaris is also a graduate of the American Association of Medical College’s (AAMC) Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) year-long certificate program. The program focused on four areas: 1) vision and setting direction; 2) developing people; 3) developing organizations; and 4) managing effectively. She is also a graduate of the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) at UMMS. She is a passionate and dedicated medical educator and leader who strives to make learners and colleagues feel engaged, empowered and valued.