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Surgeon. 2004 Apr;2(2):79-90.

Anatomy: a must for teaching the next generation.

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Division of Anatomy, Cell and Human Biology, Guy's, School of Biomedical Sciences, Medicine and Dentistry, Guy's Campus, London SE1 1UL.


Teaching anatomy to both undergraduate medical students and medical graduates is in the midst of a downward spiral. The traditional anatomy education based on topographical structural anatomy taught by didactic lectures and complete dissection of the body with personal tuition, has been replaced by a multiple range of special study modules, problem-based workshops, computers, plastic models and many other teaching tools. In some centres, dissected cadaver-based anatomy is no longer taught. Changing the undergraduate medical curriculum in the UK has taken place without any research into the key aspects of knowledge necessary or comparing methods of teaching. There is no agreement on a common national core curriculum and as a result, numerous new curricula have been introduced. No external audit or validation is carried out, so medical schools have been free to teach and assess their own work themselves. There is a great divergence in medical schools across the UK and Ireland in teaching medicine in general and anatomy in particular. Published data on the impact of these changes is scant. The reduction in undergraduate teaching and knowledge of anatomy has caused great concern, not only for undergraduates but also to postgraduate students, especially in surgery. This, together with a change in basic surgical training, a marked reduction in demonstrator posts and a change in examination standards, has set up a system that is allowing young men and women with a poor knowledge of anatomy to become surgeons. There should be a full public debate at every level; the Royal Colleges, specialist associations, the Universities, Government, both health and education. This debate should highlight areas of concern, explore in depth and define a minimal core curriculum for anatomy. Teaching must be enhanced with a critical look at both teachers and methods. The dominance of research must be reassessed to establish an equitable cohabitation with teaching. The place of basic science, especially anatomy in basic surgical teaching, must be examined. A thorough knowledge of anatomy should be required in the new MRCS-UK. This should be mandatory as a preliminary to higher surgical training. The teaching of anatomy in surgical specialities must be improved. Does the dissecting room still have a place in educating our under- and postgraduate students? Yes--a sound knowledge of anatomy is essential if the medical practitioner is going to accurately define and successfully treat the problem presented by the patient. The dissected cadaver remains the most powerful means of presenting and learning anatomy as a dynamic basis for solving problems. The cadaver must not be dismissed as obsolete. Dissection has survived the most rigorous test of pedagological fitness--the test of time. The student--cadaver--patient encounter is paramount in medical education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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