Factors influencing students' decisions to participate in a short "dissection experience" within a systemic anatomy course
Changes in medical education have affected both curriculum design and delivery. Many medical schools now use integrated curricula and a systemic approach, with reduced hours of anatomy teaching. While learning anatomy via dissection is invaluable in educational, professional, and personal development, it is time intensive and supports a regional approach to learning anatomy; the use of prosections has replaced dissection as the main teaching method in many medical schools. In our graduate-entry medical degree, we use an integrated curriculum, with prosections to teach anatomy systemically. However, to not exclude dissection completely, and to expose students to its additional and unique benefits, we implemented a short "Dissection Experience" at the beginning of Year 2. Students attended three two-hour anatomy sessions and participated in dissection of the clinically relevant areas of the cubital fossa, femoral triangle, and infraclavicular region. This activity was voluntary and we retrospectively surveyed all students to ascertain factors influencing their decision of whether to participate in this activity, and to obtain feedback from those students who did participate. The main reasons students did not participate were previous dissection experience and time constraints. The reasons most strongly affecting students' decisions to participate related to experience (lack of previous or new) and new skill. Students' responses as to the most beneficial component of the dissection experience were based around practical skills, anatomical education, the learning process, and the body donors. We report here on the benefits and practicalities of including a short dissection experience in a systemic, prosection-based anatomy course.