Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Letters to the Editor

Teaching Anatomy: It’s Time for a Reality Check

Ghosh, Sanjib Kumar MD

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001339
  • Free

To the Editor:

In recent years the number of hours devoted to teaching anatomy in the undergraduate medical curriculum is on the decline as more clinically relevant materials are being included.1 With the decrease in allotted time it is becoming increasingly difficult for students to cope with the present volume of study materials in anatomy.2 As teachers we are not making things easier for our students by trying to teach the subject in a detailed manner.3 The bitter truth is that we are here to help our students become good clinicians, not good anatomists. Hence, we need to be realistic and try to impart the essential knowledge in an effective way within the limited time frame in a way that will enable medical students to hone their clinical skills later on.

To keep pace with modern medical curricula, the course material in anatomy could be divided into modules of short duration with each module comprising only clinically relevant materials carefully selected from the system- or region-based classification of human anatomy which is presently prevalent across the globe. Essentially, it would be curricular triage, where some areas are to be tagged as “must know” and differentiated from those of “should know” and “could know.” This process could be streamlined if clinicians, particularly from different fields of surgery, are brought onboard to provide valuable input. After all, these colleagues would be in the best position to identify the areas of anatomy that a medical student needs for successful medical practice. There should be the cushion of a sufficient time interval between each module, which would allow students to go through the study materials multiple times. This would possibly contribute to building baseline knowledge with respect to each module before the students move to the next one.

Instead of teaching too much anatomy within a short period of time, it would be more appropriate to provide selective but useful knowledge that students can actually imbibe and apply during clinical training. In a changing curricular environment, anatomists need to adapt and modify the teaching methods accordingly in order to withstand the test of time.4 The clock is ticking, and we need to act fast!

Sanjib Kumar Ghosh, MD
Assistant professor, Department of Anatomy, ESI-PGIMSR & ESIC Medical College, Joka, Kolkata, West Bengal, India; [email protected]


1. Collins JP. Modern approaches to teaching and learning anatomy. BMJ. 2008;337:a1310.
2. Begman EM, Prince KJ, Drukker J, van der Vleuten CP, Scherpbier AJ. How much anatomy is enough? Anat Sci Educ. 2008;1:184188.
3. Ghosh SK, Chakraborty S. Enhancing learning in anatomy lectures. Educ Health (Abingdon). 2015;28:216217.
4. Drake RL, McBride JM, Lachman N, Pawlina W. Medical education in the anatomical sciences: The winds of change continue to blow. Anat Sci Educ. 2009;2:253259.
Copyright © 2016 by the Association of American Medical Colleges