Arlen R. Severson, PhD

Professor, Medical School, Duluth Campus

Arlen R. Severson

Contact Info

Office Phone 218-726-7903

Fax 218-726-7937

Office Address:
Department of Biomedical Sciences
209 SMed
1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

Professor, Medical School, Duluth Campus

Department of Biomedical Sciences

PhD, University of North Dakota (Medical Sciences), 1965

MS, University of North Dakota (Anatomy), 1963

BA, Concordia College (Biology & Chemistry), 1961


Awards & Recognition

  • 2014 Academic Health center Academy for Excellence in the Scholarship of teaching and Learning
  • 2012 Minnesota Medical Foundation Outstanding Medical School Teacher Award
  • 2002 University of Minnesota Medical School Academy of Medical Educators Award

Professional Associations


Research Summary/Interests

Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of myocardial infarction, strokes and gangrene. One of the dominant features of the atherosclerotic lesion is the presence of calcification. Previous studies have focused on the normal calcification processes involving skeletal tissue. Developments in calcification research have lead to the recognition of similarities between normal calcification of skeletal tissue and abnormal calcification in the vascular wall at atherosclerotic sites.

The primary research objective has been to apply information and techniques used in studying normal calcifying tissues to the calcification process occurring in atheromatous lesions. This includes determining if osteogenic cell proteins are present in calcifying coronary arteries, what known bone growth factors may be present and responsible for coronary artery calcification, and messenger RNA levels of proteins relevant to the calcification process.

These studies have wide-ranging implications for the prevention of coronary artery calcification because of the many new drugs and antibodies currently available (or in development) that alter the calcification process in bone. The finding of similar features between normal calcified tissue and calcified coronary arteries will guide future research and therapies that could prevent coronary artery disease.

Facilitating the transformation of undergraduate medical education as medical education moves into the next decades is another endeavor being undertaken. One approach to education being pursued is Team-Based Learning (TBL). TBL assumes that learning goals for a subject be faculty-directed and used to guide individual and group learning activities. In TBL, students initially learn by receiving learning objectives and preparing before class by using the learning objectives. At the beginning of each class period, individual students take a readiness assessment quiz on the material studied. A similar quiz is then administered to designated groups of students (group quiz) in which the students discuss the possible answers and defend their reasoning. The group decides on the correct answer, and the group quiz is then discussed in the classroom. Discussion of clinical cases related to the subject follow. TBL emphasizes three keys to effective active learning: 1) individual and group accountability, 2) need and opportunity for group interaction; and 3) motivation to engage in give-and-take discussion. Documentation of the learning experience indicates positive enhancement of medical knowledge and clinical understanding.

Emphasis on independent learning by developing computer-assisted learning tools for both radiographic anatomy and neuroanatomy has been a priority over several decades. Radiographic and Sectional Anatomy and NeuroTime serve as independent supplemental tools for the learning of structures and anatomical relationships.

Another area of current educational activity is the development of self-assessment learning quizzes. These consist primarily of short clinical vignettes that focus on the current learning area for the student. These learning tools enable the student to investigate clinical problems with follow-up multiple choice questions related to the clinical condition.


See full list of publications at: PubMed

Severson, A.R., Developing and using a computer-based program for learning sectional and radiological anatomy. Clinical Anatomy 30: (In press). 2017.

Severson, A.R., Adding a checklist to the medical neuroscience laboratory guide when using a computer-assisted neuroanatomical learning tool. FASEB Journal 30(4): 777(1). 2016

Severson, A.R. and Paulsen, B.B., Developing an HTML5 neuroanatomical learning tool for the computer, tablet and smartphone. FASEB Journal 29(10): (550.10). 2015

Severson, A.R., Neuroscience laboratory instruction using a computer-based neuroanatomical learning tool. FASEB Journal 28(4): (720.2). 2014

Severson, A.R., Student use of gross anatomy laboratory checklists. Clinical Anatomy 27(8): 1324. 2014

Severson, A.R. andForbes, D.J., Learning human neuroanatomical structure and function using a computer-based learning tool. FASEB Journal 27(4):A959.6. 2013

Severson, A.R., Using a computer-based program to learn human neuroanatomical structure and function. Clinical Anatomy 26(8):1036. 2013

Severson, A. R., Repesh, L.A., Westra, R.E., Johns, A.M., Hoffman R.G., Integrating basic science and clinical subject material into a clinically relevant skin-musculoskeletal course for first-year medical students. FASAB Journal 26 (4):531.5. 2012

Severson, A.R., Teaching the millennial generation of medical students. FASEB Journal 25(4):496. 2011

Severson, A.R., Peer teaching as an educational tool for learning basic concepts of the peripheral nervous system. FASEB Journal 24(4):A14, 2010

Hansen, E., Boettcher, N., Byron, K., Eisenschenk, J., Severson, A.R., Learning the ins and outs of the peripheral nervous system. Clinical Anatomy 21(8):819. 2008

Severson, A.R., Overgaard, J., Maust, T., Sauter, J., Lofgren, J., Alder, J., Glawe, B., Case-based learning for understanding cardiovascular development. FASEB Journal 22(4):A14, 2008

Severson, A.R., Use of team-based learning as an educational tool for learning developmental anatomy. Clinical Anatomy 19(8):762, 2006

Severson, A.R., Team-based learning as an educational strategy for learning normal and abnormal developmental anatomy. FASEB Journal 20(4):A14, 2006

Severson, A.R. and Forbes, D.J., NeuroTime™, a computer-assisted learning tool for the neuroanatomy laboratory. Clinical Anatomy 15:432, 2002.

Severson, A.R. and Forbes, D.J., NeuroView: Learning Neuroanatomical structures using a computer-based program. FASAB Journal, 15:A720, 2001.

Kendrick, M.L., Sarr, M.G., Severson, A.R., and Pawlina, W., Anatomic considerations of the cervical tube pharyngostomy. Clinical Anatomy 14:459. 2001

Severson, A.R. and Forbes, D.J., Neuroview™: A computer learning tool for neuroanatomy. FASAB Journal, 14:A307, 2000.

Firling, C., Hill, T.A., Severson, A.R. Aluminum toxicity perturbs long bone calcification in the embryonic chick Arch Toxicol, 73: 359-366, 1999.

Sangiorgi, G., Rumberger, J.A., Severson, A.R., Edwards, W.D., Gregoire, J., Fitzpatrick, L., and Schwartz, R.S. Arterial calcification and not lumen stenosis is highly correlated with atherosclerotic plaque burden in humans. A histologic study of 723 coronary artery segments using non-decalcifying methodology. J. Amer. College of Cardiology 31:126-133, 1998.

Severson, A.R., Ingram, R.T., and Fitzpatrick, L.A. Matrix proteins associated with bone calcification are present in human vascular smooth muscle cells grown in vitro. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology 31:853-857, 1995.

Firling,C.E., Severson,A.R. and Hill, T.A. Aluminum effects on blood chemistry and long bone development in the chick embryo. Arch Toxicol, 68: 541-547, 1994.

Ingram, R.T., Severson, A.R., Edwards, W.D. and Fitzpatrick, L.A. Diffuse calcification in human atherosclerotic coronary arteries: Implications for the formation of calcified plaque. J Clin Invest, 94: 1597-1604, 1994.

Firling, C.E., Hill, T.A. and Severson, A.R. Collagen synthesis and alkaline phosphatase activity in the tibia of aluminum-treated chick embryos. J Bone Min Res, 9:S381, 1994.

Firling, C.E., Severson, A.R., Mussman, G.V., Moyer, T.P. and Fitzpatrick, L.A. Aluminum levels in the plasma and bone of aluminum citrate-treated chick embryos. J Bone Min Res, 9:S382, 1994.

Severson, A.R., Ingram, R.T., Schwartz, R.S. and Fitzpatrick, L.A. Matrix proteins associated with bone calcification are present in human aortic vascular smooth muscle cells. Circulation 88: I-367, 1993.

Severson, A.R., Ingram, R.T., Schwartz, R.S. and Fitzpatrick, L.A. Immunohistochemical staining of porcine vascular smooth muscle cells grown in vitro for bone sialoprotein, osteocalcin, osteopontin, osteonectin and procollagen type I. Anat Rec, S1: 103, 1993.

Severson,A.R., HautC.F., Firling,C.E. and Huntley,T.E. Influence of aluminum exposure on demineralized bone matrix (DBM)-induced bone formation. Arch Toxicol, 66: 706-712, 1992.

Severson, A.R. and Eisenberg, R.M. A problem-based computer program for learning neuroanatomy. Anat Rec, 232: 80A-81A, 1992.

Firling, C.E., Sufka, K.M., Marko, M.D., Huntley, T.E. and Severson, A.R. The influence of aluminum and citrate on embryonic bone calcification. J Bone Min Res, 6: S188, 1991.

Elf, P.K., Firling, C.E., Huntley, T.E. and Severson, A.R. ROS 17/2.8 osteocarcoma cell cultures exposed to aluminum, fluoride, or aluminum plus fluoride. J Bone Min Res, 6: S83, 1991.

Severson, A.R. and Huntley, T.H. Stimulation of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity in implants consisting of demineralized and mineralized bone matrices. J Bone Min Res, 5: S84, 1990.

Severson, A.R., Kohn, E. and Huntley, T.H. Effect of mixtures of mineralized bone and demineralized bone on osteoclast formation and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity. Anat Rec, 226: 92A. 190

Educational Materials Developed:

Forbes, D.J. and Severson, A.R. NeuroTime™ on the WEB. 2010; 2017.

Severson, A.R. Radiographic and Sectional Anatomy© on the WEB. 2010.

Forbes, D.J. and Severson, A.R. NeuroTime™ on CD. 2001.

Severson, A.R. and Eisenberg, R.M. MacBrain Lesion™: A Study/Review Program© on CD Minnesota Medical Edu-Ware, Inc., Duluth, MN, 1991, 1998.

Forbes, D.J. and Severson, A.R. NeuroView™ on CD. 1996.

Severson, A.R., Raabolle, J., Halls, E., Leppi, T.J. and Fehringer, S. Human Anatomy: Cross Sectional Anatomy and X-Rays© on CD. 1995.


Teaching Areas

In all medical courses. 

  • Gross Anatomy
  • Neuroscience
  • Developmental Anatomy
  • Histology

Mentoring/Advising: Medical Students