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The Catalyst

Endowed scholarship honors neuro-anatanomist

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

To hundreds of students, Isabel Lockard, MUSC Professor Emerita, was a remarkable teacher and mentor. Since 1952, the neuro-anatanomist taught one of the most difficult courses – neuroanatomy (neurosciences) – to medical, dental and graduate students and neurology residents for more than three decades.

Following Dr. Isabel Lockard’s death in 2011, several faculty, colleagues and former students established the endowed scholarship in her name. To donate, email
Following Dr. Isabel Lockard’s death in 2011, several faculty, colleagues and former students established the endowed scholarship in her name. To donate, email

Following Lockard’s death Nov. 5, 2011, several of her faculty colleagues, former students and friends of MUSC established the endowed scholarship in her name that is funded by contributions from donors. The scholarship will provide a substantial gift to a fourth-year medical student based on need and interest in the neurosciences field.

Lockard was recruited to MUSC in 1952 by former Department of Anatomy Chair Melvin Knisely, Ph.D., and was among few women faculty members at the Medical College of South Carolina. In addition to teaching, she wrote and published the Desk Reference for Neuroscience, a guide still used by the neuroscience community worldwide. In 1999, she was honored for her contributions to the fields of anatomy, research and medical education with the MUSC Distinguished Faculty Service Award.

Born in Manitoba, Canada, Lockard received her undergraduate degree in speech from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in speech correction from the University of Michigan. She went on to earn a doctorate in neuroanatomy from Michigan working with famed neuro-anatanomist Elizabeth C. Crosby, Ph.D. In 1947, she taught at Georgetown University before moving to Charleston.

Hilda Debacker, Ph.D., an anatomy professor, colleague and friend, taught with Lockard in the mid-1950s. She said Lockard was known for her command of the subject, her distinctive teaching style and detailed neuroanatomical drawings. At the time of her retirement in 1985, Lockard was part of a lunch group of former anatomy department and basic science faculty who met regularly.

“She was a gifted teacher,” said Debacker, who remembers Lockard to be dedicated, loyal and smart. She was affectionately called “Neuro Nellie” by colleagues and students.
William O. Whetsell, M.D., a 1966 College of Medicine alumnus and Professor Emeritus of neuropathology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, fondly remembered his teacher and mentor.

“Dr. Lockard was indeed one of a kind, and one who, in her straight-forward but gentle and intellectually honest way, gave each of us a substantial part of the early academic background we needed to get through medical, dental or graduate school and move on into our futures,” Whetsell said.

Sunil Patel, M.D., professor and Department of Neurosciences chairman, was among those medical students who sat in Lockard’s neuroanatomy class in 1981. According to Patel, Lockard’s class was considered among the most challenging taken for medical students in addition to gross anatomy, histology and embryology. Lockard’s classes were popular and always filled.

“Dr. Lockard knew how to simplify anatomy and make it very easy to understand. She brought neuroanatomy to the students. The complex nervous system was often carefully dissected open in the most simplified manner in her lectures. Many of her lectures were taped and transcribed by her students. Most of our class used only her notes to study for the board exams because it was much better than some of the texts available at that time,” Patel said.

Patel counts Lockard as some of a handful of faculty who inspired him toward studying neurosciences in general. As a physics undergraduate student, Patel felt comfortable learning medicine in this way.

“We went from studying membrane physiology to cortical cytoarchitecture and then to Lockard’s lectures on synapses, pathways and structural neuroanatomy brought everything nicely together,” he said. “She was an inspiring teacher and left a huge imprint in my career as both a neurosurgeon and teacher.”

Patel hopes the scholarship will attract more medical students to consider a career in neurosciences.

“In our busy lives, we often forget who taught us, who inspired us. All our successes depend on how much interest our teachers and mentors took in us. It was very easy to contribute and support this particular fund,” Patel said.

For information, contact Terry Stanley, College of Medicine Development, at 792-3937 or

August 28, 2013

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