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J Surg Res. 2010 Jan;158(1):36-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2008.08.012.

Integrating surgical skills education into the anatomy laboratory.

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School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0790, USA.



Preclinical education plays a pivotal role in improving the quality of patient care and safety. Early exposure to surgical skills training and surgical mentors enhance students' retention and confidence in those skills, and may promote their interest in surgery.


Based upon a needs assessment survey of surgical education at UCSF, we introduced a curriculum to teach basic surgical techniques in the preclinical years with the intent of emphasizing several important skills and providing students with exposure to surgical mentors in a small group environment. We then surveyed the students to assess satisfaction with the new curriculum and the effect on perceptions regarding a career in surgery.


Rising fourth y students at UCSF identified the need for increased exposure to basic surgical skills in preparation for third y clerkships. Collaboration between the Departments of Anatomy and Surgery subsequently produced an integrated suturing curriculum in the anatomy lab as part of the first y medical school coursework. The curriculum offered a focused exposure to skills identified by senior students as important for their clinical rotations. The vast majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the exercise was enjoyable and worth continuing, and that their interactions with the surgeon volunteers were positive. Furthermore, 33% stated that their interest in surgery increased after the exercise. Qualitative comments praised both the experience and surgical faculty participation.


A needs-based surgical skills curriculum can be integrated into the traditional first-y anatomy course without detracting from didactic instruction in anatomy. Furthermore, students received early exposure to surgical mentors and skills training, which may translate into greater confidence on the wards and increased interest in surgical careers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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