Medical Students / JMOsNews / Opinion

To dissect or not to dissect


I blogged about this on my blog a few days ago (before I discovered your hang out) and I reckon you guys might find it interesting. I would love to hear from you about which med school offers what dissection experience. Cheers : )

I have always had a huge interest in anatomy and I would love to get my hands dirty and dissect (former) donors to science. Anatomy of a dissection debatefrom today’s SMH is a good, longish feature that talks about the different opinions on dissection in med schools. I wonder how many schools still offer dissections as opposed to just prosections (viewing anatomy structures dissected by others) (I actually answered this myself below but no names were given though).”You need to pick up and follow the structures to identify them,” Ramsey-Stewart says. ”You need the tactile gnosis.”

I’m excited that ANU has an Anatomy Dissection Prize (hopefully it’ll be around for a while). USYD, where the above article draws inspiration, seems to offer envious dissection opportunities, apparently “another 90 donated corpses are downstairs in the university’s mortuary”.

Back to the future: teaching anatomy by whole-body dissection, published in the MJA last December, found that the anatomical knowledge of students increased dramatically after a 34-day optional dissection course, whose coordinator is also the journal article’s lead investigator. The students also gave favourable feedbacks (obviously, from my shoes).

Last April, Review of anatomy education in Australian and New Zealand medical schoolsfrom the ANZJS reported that the amount of time spent on teaching anatomy varied widely among the 19 med schools (21 were approached). The average 4 year course offered 180 hours of anatomy teaching but it ranged from 75 to 300 hours. One 5 year course had only 56 hours on anatomy. What a privilege! Compulsory whole body dissection experience was only available in 3 med schools, 4 had no human dissection at all, neither optional nor part. Cheekily, the investigators identified somewhat indirectly the Aussie (and, by deduction, Kiwi) med school that didn’t respond to the questionnaire.

In August 2009, it was reported that two dognapped pet dogs were found by their owners in a dissection room at a university teaching hospital. One was even “sedated, splayed, and strapped to a stainless steel table moments away from the knife”(abc). The University of San Marcos in Peru doesn’t have access to enough human cadavers. I’m grateful for the opportunities we have in Australia.

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