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Anat Rec. 2002 Feb 15;269(1):20-32.

The human cadaver in the age of biomedical informatics.

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Department of Anatomy, Howard University, College of Medicine, Washington, DC 20059, USA.


Major national and international critiques of the medical curriculum in the 1980s noted the following significant flaws: (1) over-reliance on learning by rote memory, (2) insufficient exercise in analysis and synthesis/conceptualization, and (3) failure to connect the basic and clinical aspects of training. It was argued that the invention of computers and related imaging techniques called to question the traditional instruction based on the faculty-centered didactic lecture. In the ensuing reform, which adopted case-based, small group, problem-based learning, time allotted to anatomical instruction was severely truncated. Many programs replaced dissection with prosections and computer-based learning. We argue that cadaver dissection is still necessary for (1) establishing the primacy of the patient, (2) apprehension of the multidimensional body, (3) touch-mediated perception of the cadaver/patient, (4) anatomical variability, (5) learning the basic language of medicine, (6) competence in diagnostic imaging, (7) cadaver/patient-centered computer-assisted learning, (8) peer group learning, (9) training for the medical specialties. Cadaver-based anatomical education is a prerequisite of optimal training for the use of biomedical informatics. When connected to dissection, medical informatics can expedite and enhance preparation for a patient-based medical profession. Actual dissection is equally necessary for acquisition of scientific skills and for a communicative, moral, ethical, and humanistic approach to patient care. Anat Rec (New Anat) 269:20-32, 2002.

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