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The importance of surgeons teaching anatomy, especially by whole-body dissection


To the Editor: The reduction in anatomy teaching by whole-body dissection in medical education is a critical matter that has received substantial attention in the medical education literature.1,2 Where anatomy teaching by whole-body dissection has remained, there has been a marked move away from the tradition of such courses being taught by surgeons. A recent review of anatomy education in Australia and New Zealand showed that teaching of gross anatomy is now predominantly undertaken by non-clinical staff, including medical students, science graduates, physiotherapists and technical staff.2 Speculation has arisen that the teaching of anatomy by non-clinical staff may lead to a lack of depth in understanding of topographical clinical anatomy among medical graduates.2

The importance of providing clinical relevance to medical teaching is frequently highlighted. In fact, the importance of being taught by clinicians and surgeons in the anatomy dissection courses is perhaps more relevant to the modern medical curricula, which have limited time for imparting essential clinical anatomy. Anatomical knowledge is still important to safe clinical practice; the range of possible surgery has increased dramatically; and sophisticated technological advances such as modern imaging…