Status of gross anatomy in the U.S. and Canada: Dilemma for the 21st century

Thomas J. Collins, Randall L. Given, Claire E. Hulsebosch, Brian T. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


As a component of a recent academic review, the Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, developed a questionnaire designed to compare the curricula, direction, and challenges of their department with the approximately 140 anatomy departments in the U. S. and Canada. The response was overwhelming in that over 80% of the schools returned a completed questionnaire. One of the areas of interest revealed by this survey was a growing concern over significant changes in both medical school curricula and the future of anatomy departments. Most departments still used traditional lectures to present course material and the majority of the scheduled contact hours were in the dissection laboratory; however, other teaching formats, such as case studies and small group discussions, accounted for significantly more of the teaching effort. Nearly 20% of the schools were making major modifications in their teaching methods. The general trend was to include more integrated, problem‐based learning and computer‐assisted teaching while reducing overall content, didactic lectures, and rote memorization. The role and need for traditionally trained gross anatomists in medical education appeared to be diminishing as curricular reform moved toward more student‐directed, faculty‐facilitated programs. Concurrently, the recruitment and career development of gross anatomy faculty appeared to be influenced more by funding status than by academic training or teaching experience, as most departmental chairman were willing to hire non‐anatomists and “train” them to assume an often reduced teaching load in gross anatomy courses. In addition, fewer graduate students were being trained in classical gross anatomy, a trend that better suited the emerging student‐directed medical school curricula. The reduction in classically trained anatomists also appeared to reflect the widespread practice whereby anatomy faculty were rewarded far more for research than for teaching. Although the continued inclusion of gross anatomy in medical education appeared to be assured, its traditional mode of presentation and academic prominence will likely change by the turn of the century. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-296
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994


  • academic review
  • curriculum
  • student‐directed curricula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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