Letters Modern approaches to teaching and learning anatomy

Modern models are already being applied

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1966 (Published 06 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1966
  1. Mark D Stringer, professor of anatomy,
  2. Helen D Nicholson, dean
  1. 1School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. mark.stringer{at}anatomy.otago.ac.nz

    Collins may not be aware that progressive anatomy departments have already embraced most of the reforms he discusses.1 At the University of Otago, undergraduate medical students are taught clinically oriented anatomy within a curriculum centred around early clinical contact. Anatomy is taught in parallel to clinical cases, clinical skills (including surface anatomy), and radiology. Our teaching has included a highly successful body painting session and an abdominal anatomy ultrasound demonstration. Most anatomy is taught in practical classes with the aid of targeted dissections, prosections (plastinated and “wet” specimens), museum models, cross sectional slices, and radiological images. The few lectures on anatomy focus on concepts, difficult areas, and clinical application. Students have access to a wide range of multimedia resources for independent study. An active clinical anatomy research programme fosters and underpins a culture of research- informed teaching.

    We have retained cadaveric dissection, which is extremely popular with most medical and dental students.2 It encourages teamwork, dialogue using medical language, ethical consideration, knowledge of human variation, and an introduction to common pathology. It may be emotionally disturbing for a few, but so are various other aspects of medicine—learning to cope with emotional upset in a supportive framework is an important part of becoming a doctor.

    We are currently attempting to vertically integrate anatomy teaching into the more senior years of undergraduate medical training. We applaud the move of the colleges of surgery towards establishing a syllabus of generic anatomy with the addition of more detailed anatomy for subspecialty trainees, but assessments of trainees must be aligned with this as a matter of urgency. Testing surgical trainees by questioning their ability to remember irrelevant anatomical minutiae is no longer acceptable.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1966


    • Competing interests: None declared.


    View Abstract

    Sign in

    Log in through your institution