Pre-clinical anatomy curricula must provide medical students with the knowledge needed in a variety of medical and surgical specialties. But do physicians within specialties agree about what anatomical knowledge is most important in their practices? And, what is the common core of anatomical knowledge deemed essential by physicians in different specialties? Answers to these questions would be useful in designing pre-clinical anatomy courses. The primary aim of this study was to assess the importance of a human gross anatomy course by soliciting the opinions of physicians from a range of specialties. We surveyed 93 physicians to determine the importance of specific anatomical topics in their own practices. Their responses were analyzed to assess variation in intra- and inter-departmental attitudes toward the importance of anatomy. Nearly all of the topics taught in the course were deemed important by the clinicians as a group, but respondents showed little agreement on the rank order of importance of anatomical topics. Overall, only medical imaging received high importance by nearly all respondents, and lower importance was attached to embryology and lymphatic anatomy. Our survey data, however, also suggested distinct hierarchies in the importance assigned to anatomical topics within specialties. Given that physicians view the importance of anatomy differently, we suggest that students revisit anatomy through a vertically integrated curriculum tailored to provide specialty-specific anatomical training to advanced students based on their areas of clinical interest. Integration of medical imaging into pre-clinical anatomy courses, already underway in many medical schools, is of high clinical relevance.
Keywords: anatomy curriculum; clinical anatomy; core curriculum; embryology; gross anatomy education; medical education; medical imaging; radiology; undergraduate medical education; vertical integration.
© 2013 American Association of Anatomists.