Working with cadavers, whether through active dissection or by examination of prosected specimens, constitutes a potential stressor in medical education although there is no consensus on its effect. Some reports have suggested that it creates such a strongly negative experience that it warrants special curricular attention. To assess the issue for ourselves, we administered surveys to the freshman medical students taking the Anatomical Sciences course in the problem-based Alternative Curriculum (A.C.) at Rush Medical College for four consecutive years. We found that although a vast majority of students expressed a positive attitude toward the experience, both before and after taking the course, there remains a small percentage of students for whom human dissection may initially be a traumatic experience. We offer explanations for our findings, comments on disparate results from other studies and suggestions for appropriate responses by anatomy faculty, who must address these student needs.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.