Anatomy education in Namibia: Balancing facility design and curriculum development


  • Quenton Wessels,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
    • Department of Anatomy, University of Namibia, 340 Mandume Ndemufayo Avenue Pioniers Park, Windhoek 0000, Namibia
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  • Willie Vorster,

    1. Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
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  • Christian Jacobson

    1. Department of Biochemistry and Physiological Chemistry, School of Medicine, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
    2. Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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  • Conflict of interest: The authors actively serve on the Infrastructure Committee of the School of Medicine. Authority to publish the information within this document has been granted by the Dean's office of the University of Namibia, School of Medicine. The responsibilities related to this committee hold no monetary reward and there is no conflicting interest.


The anatomy curriculum at Namibia's first, and currently only, medical school is clinically oriented, outcome-based, and includes all of the components of modern anatomical sciences i.e., histology, embryology, neuroanatomy, gross, and clinical anatomy. The design of the facilities and the equipment incorporated into these facilities were directed toward simplification of work flow and ease of use by faculty, staff, and students. From the onset, the integration of state of the art technology was pursued to facilitate teaching and promote a student-centered pedagogical approach to dissections. The program, as realized, is comprised of three 16-week semesters with seven hours of contact time per week, namely three hours of lectures and four hours of dissection laboratory and microscopy time. Set outcomes were established, each revolving around clinical cases with integrated medical imaging. The design of the facility itself was not constrained by a legacy structure, allowing the School of Medicine, in collaboration with architects and contractors, to design the building from scratch. A design was implemented that allows for the sequential processing of cadaveric material in a unidirectional flow from reception, to preparation, embalming, storage, dissection, and maceration. Importantly, the odor of formaldehyde typically associated with anatomy facilities was eliminated outside of the dissection areas and minimized within via a high-performance ventilation system. By holistically incorporating an integrated curriculum, facility design, and teaching at an early stage, the authors believe they have created a system that might serve as a model for new anatomy programs. Anat Sci Educ. © 2011 American Association of Anatomists.