Anatomy integration: Effective change or change of affect? Academic Article uri icon


  • Anatomy is fundamental to clinical practice, is considered a rite of passage in becoming a physician and is key to professional identity formation. The anatomy course that began the medical curriculum at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine was recently dissolved to address content and process gaps in the pre-clinical curriculum. Anatomy was integrated into the organ system blocks to make room for new courses to address content gaps. Previous reports of anatomy integration document more positive attitudes and perceptions to teaching anatomy in context, as compared to an independent course. The current prospective study compared two medical student cohorts to determine the effects of teaching anatomy in and out of context on the cognitive and affective domains of learning. In a pre, post, and follow-up design, methods included content assessments, confidence probes, and attitude surveys informed by focus groups. Results indicated that anatomical knowledge and student confidence was gained and mastered in both curricula. Initial acquisition of content was higher in the integrated curriculum, but not maintained. Students in the integrated curriculum displayed a different relationship to learning anatomy, appearing more concerned with their personal progression than with the connection of anatomy to medical practice or patient care. These students also agreed less with statements related to working in teams, reflective practices and professional identity formation. Further studies will determine if this difference will diminish with continued exposure to anatomy and may inform future curricular adjustments. Anat Sci Educ. © 2018 American Association of Anatomists.© 2018 American Association of Anatomists.

publication date

  • November 2018