Despite reductions in the importance, time committed to, and status of anatomical education in modern medical curricula, anatomical knowledge remains a cornerstone of medicine and related professions. Anatomists are therefore presented with the challenge of delivering required levels of core anatomical knowledge in a reduced time-frame and with fewer resources. One common response to this problem is to reduce the time available for students to interact with human specimens (either via dissection or handling of prosected material). In some curricula, these sessions are replaced with didactic or problem-based approaches focussed on transmitting core anatomical concepts. Here, I propose that the adoption of philosophical principles concerning the relationship and differences between "direct experience" and "concept" provides a strong case in support of requiring students to gain significant exposure to human material. These insights support the hypothesis that direct experience of human material is required for "deep," rather than "superficial," understanding of anatomy.
"Influenced through his studies of anatomy, Galen remodeled and advanced Hippocratic theories. A strong advocate for dissection (Nutton, 2002; Gillingwater, 2008), Galen operated on patients, studied osteology, and performed elaborate animal dissections (Kempf, 1904; Shin and Meals, 2005). Galen disseminated theories that significantly contributed to anatomical education and prevailed until the 1800s (Buckwalter, 2000). "
"Autopsy has long been considered a useful tool in both medical practice (Peacock et al., 1988) and medical education (Galloway, 1999; O'Grady, 2003; Gillingwater, 2008). The potential uses of autopsy-based medical student teaching are well recognized by pathologists and medical educators and include the teaching of basic medical sciences, clinical specialties , medical ethics and medical law, knowledge specific to the autopsy (such as taking consent for autopsies), generic skills in medicine (such as team work), and the delivery of important elements of the " hidden curriculum " (those aspects of medical practice which are learned from observation of teachers' attitudes and activities, rather than from planned teaching events) (Benbow, 1990a,b; Hill and Anderson, 1991; Burton, 2003; Talmon, 2010). "
"The debate on the value of post-mortem dissection in undergraduate clinical medicine, and its significance (Sheriff and Sheriff, 2010) in interpreting patient's symptoms and clinical signs, rages on (Shaffer, 2004). However, since dissection has withstood the test of time, it will presently remain as an essential aid to learning anatomy (Older, 2004; Crisp, 1989; Azer and Eisenberg, 2007; Gillingwater, 2008; Korf et al., 2008; Sugand et al., 2010). A number of studies have demonstrated that interactive multimedia tools may be more useful in a review of anatomy rather than during primary learning (Shaffer, 2004; Sugand et al., 2010). "
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