Laura Johnson, PhD


Dr. Johnson is an anatomy-focused medical educator with responsibilities as the MU Gift of Body Program Director and manager of the Human Anatomy Laboratory Facility. Her research interests align with these core tasks.

Her major research interests are in the operations of whole body donation programs and ensuring that they are ethically sound. Currently, there are limited best practices available to guide program operations. To help fill this gap, she is currently studying the content of consent forms for these programs from across the United States, with collaborators from the University of California and University of Minnesota systems.

And as technology transforms the world, how can these advances change medical school teaching, and what are their limitations? One project focuses on which computerized 3D anatomy applications are the best for medical students to use. Another project surveys current MU medical students on their use of tablets, computers, and other forms of technology in medical school across all four years.

She has also contributed to other educational research projects, including a study of the impact of outreach sessions in the anatomy laboratory for local area students in enrolled in anatomy courses or pre-health professions groups.  Another project focuses on the outcomes for incoming medical students when they take a summer anatomy primer prior to their first year of medical school.

Academic Information

Assistant Professor
P. 573-882-1201

Research Interests

  • Student retention in medical education
  • Vertically integrated anatomy education
  • Adaptations to arboreality
  • Nails and Claws in primate evolution
  • Body size, shape and locomotion
  • Ethics and operations of whole body donation programs
  • Technology in medical education
  • Anatomy in medical school curricula

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University


  • Johnson, L.E. “Vertical Clinging” In: International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Ed: Agustín Fuentes. Wiley-Blackwell. In press.
  •  Johnson, L.E., Hanna, J. and D. Schmitt. “Single-limb force data for two lemur species while vertically clinging.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 158(3): 463-474. 2015.