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Keywords:

  • gross anatomy;
  • medical education;
  • physician assistant education;
  • assessments;
  • curriculum development

Abstract

There is little consensus among programs that train physician assistants (PAs) regarding how much time should be devoted to the study of anatomy, what should be included, or how it should be taught. Similar concerns led us to redesign anatomy for medical students and introduce clinically engaged anatomy, an approach designed in collaboration with clinical faculty. This approach presents anatomy entirely within the context of common clinical cases. This report examines whether clinically engaged anatomy could be adapted to the PA program, where students cover the basic sciences in half the time as medical students. We offered a modified version of clinically engaged anatomy to PA students in which time spent in self-directed learning activities was reduced relative to medical students. We compared their scores on an examination of long-term recall to students who took the previous course. Two classes who took clinically engaged anatomy, scored the same or significantly higher on every portion of the examination (P < 0.05). Students expressed high satisfaction with the course (Likert scale, 4.3–4.8/5 points). Compared to medical students who took clinically engaged anatomy, the data suggest that the tradeoff for reducing the time spent in self-directed learning was reduced skills in applying structure-function relationships and spatial reasoning to clinical problems. The data suggest clinically engaged anatomy can be effective in various educational settings, and can be readily adapted to clinical programs that vary in the depth that anatomy is covered. Nonetheless, careful assessments are needed to determine if the necessary tradeoffs are consistent with the goals of the profession. Anat Sci Educ 4: 64–70, 2011. © 2011 American Association of Anatomists.