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Anat Sci Educ. 2009 Mar-Apr;2(2):89-90. doi: 10.1002/ase.71.

The impact of gross anatomy on the future head and neck surgeon.

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  • 1Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Gross anatomy is not only a rite of passage for medical students as they enter the world of practicing medicine but may also be an unrecognized fork in the road in their pursuit of choosing a medical specialty. Otolaryngology: head and neck surgery tends to be poorly represented in medical school curriculum, often only offered as an elective rotation. However, head and neck anatomy remains a constant in most medical schools, granting some exposure to otolaryngology whether students realize it or not. A common thread among most head and neck surgeons in their decision to pursue this surgical specialty is a love for head and neck anatomy, spawned in that first year gross anatomy course. This first and potentially only exposure to otolaryngology should be optimized, as it can have a profound effect in the selection of otolaryngology as a specialty. This introduction can be facilitated by (1) inviting otolaryngology residents to assist during the dissection of the head and neck, (2) soliciting otolaryngology attending physicians to provide clinical correlation lectures, and (3) anatomy professors should identify students who excel in the head and neck portion of the curriculum and direct them towards otolaryngology mentors. There may be a great missed opportunity if a career in otolaryngology is not discussed with students during the dissection of the head and neck.

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