Integrating professionalism in early medical education: the theory and application of reflective practice in the anatomy curriculum

Clin Anat. 2006 Jul;19(5):456-60. doi: 10.1002/ca.20344.


Renewed emphases on teaching professionalism require physicians to develop the ability to critically reflect upon their own decisions. Innovative programs that address teaching professionalism within medical curricula have been implemented in almost all medical schools. The foundation for many of these programs is "reflection," which is regarded as a core skill in professional competence. In order to achieve the desired outcomes and meet the demands of a required curriculum, an understanding of educational concepts in the designing of medical curricula is essential. Educators recognize that, for most medical students, professional growth is initiated during the first year of the medical curriculum and, therefore, traditionally pure content delivery courses such as first year anatomy course are being utilized now in order to explore issues related to critical thinking and professionalism. As a result, learning strategies such as "reflective practice" are beginning to play an important role in curriculum design. This article provides an overview of the theory of reflective practice, and demonstrates how reflective practice may be integrated into the anatomy curriculum. In order to incorporate reflective exercises into a curriculum, the basic elements of a reflective process are defined, strategies to implement reflective exercises within the course are described, and the benefits of reflective practice are highlighted. Therefore, in creating an environment that fosters reflective learning, the gap between theory and practice may be consolidated, which in the context of anatomy promotes the issue of teaching for relevance and clinical application.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy / education*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • Problem-Based Learning* / methods
  • Professional Competence*
  • Professional Practice
  • Students, Medical