Meeting the challenge: The future of the anatomical sciences in medical school curricula


Education is a dynamic continuum. The modern educator cannot afford just to maintain the “status quo.” Every effective educational activity is based on a four-step cycle that includes planning, presentation, evaluation, and improvement.

Planning: An activity—whether it's a lecture, laboratory, or small group activity—must be carefully organized. It must accomplish a goal, motivate the audience to expand their knowledge, and provide information that should be useful in future educational activities.

Presentation: When the activity occurs, it must captivate the attention of the participants. The event should increase the participants' knowledge base and provide a foundation and desire for the acquisition of additional information.

Evaluation: Upon completion, has the event opened a previously closed door and stimulated the participant to enter a room full of new and exciting intellectual challenges?

Improvement: Nothing is so good that it cannot be improved. When this event is presented again, have advances in knowledge and/or the introduction of new technology suggested a modification in the activity that may have a significant impact on the participants?

This process continually challenges today's educators. With each organized activity they must evaluate the knowledge base to determine the appropriate material for the intended audience and be aware of technological advances that can improve the efficiency and impact of their presentation. This special educational issue of The New Anatomist will assist educators in these activities.

The article by Miller et al. (2002) provides suggestions for educators in undergraduate institutions regarding how anatomy can be used to help students understand the process of learning, develop problem solving skills, and position themselves for future educational endeavors. Additional contributions from respected educators in four fundamental disciplines of the anatomical sciences will challenge the thinking of individuals who organize courses in gross anatomy (Reidenberg and Laitman, 2002), histology (Heidger et al., 2002a,b), neuroscience (Haines et al., 2002), and embryology (Carlson, 2002). In addition, a recent survey assessing course hours and laboratory activities in gross anatomy, histology, embryology, and neuroscience (Drake et al., 2002) provides insight into curricular organization at medical schools in the United States.

The future of the anatomical sciences in medical school curricula is being shaped today.

The future of the anatomical sciences in medical school curricula is being shaped today. At the same time, the relevance of these basic sciences to clinical medicine is undergoing an inescapable process of re-evaluation in the face of reduced course hours and the shifting emphases of medical education. I encourage readers of these articles to take this opportunity to think outside the boundaries of traditional educational modalities and to be creative. Draw from the articles in this special issue pertinent information as you evaluate your current program, assess what improvements may be appropriate, and begin planning the presentation of your future educational activities.