Perceptions of anatomy: Critical components in the clinical setting

Michelle D. Lazarus, Vernon M. Chinchilli, Shou Ling Leong, Gordon L. Kauffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The evolution in undergraduate medical school curricula has significantly impacted anatomy education. This study investigated the perceived role of clinical anatomy and evaluated perceptions of medical students' ability to apply anatomical knowledge in the clinic. The aim of this study was to develop a framework to enhance anatomical educational initiatives. Unlike previous work, multiple stakeholders (clinicians, medical students, and academic anatomists) in anatomy education were evaluated. Participants completed an eleven-point Likert scale survey written by the investigators. Responses from both clinical educators and medical students at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine suggest that medical students are perceived as ill-prepared to transfer anatomy to the clinic. Although some areas of patient management differ in relevancy to anatomical education, there are areas of clinical care which were uniformly ranked as relying heavily on anatomical knowledge (imaging and diagnostic studies, physical examination, and arrival at correct diagnosis) by a variety of clinical specialists. Our results suggest a need for advanced anatomy courses to be taught coincidental with medical students' clinical education. Development of these courses would optimally rely on input from both clinicians and academic anatomists, as both cohorts rated clinical anatomy similarly (P ≥ 0.05). Additionally, we hypothesize that preclinical students' application of anatomy would be enhanced if clinical context was derived from areas of clinical care which rely heavily on anatomy, whereas courses designed for advanced medical students will benefit from anatomical context focused on specialty specific aspects of clinical care identified in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalAnatomical sciences education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology


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