Body painting as a tool in clinical anatomy teaching


  • Paul G. McMenamin

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Anatomy and Human Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley (Perth), Western Australia, Australia
    • School of Anatomy and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley (Perth) 6009, Western Australia, Australia
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The teaching of human anatomy has had to respond to significant changes in medical curricula, and it behooves anatomists to devise alternative strategies to effectively facilitate learning of the discipline by medical students in an integrated, applied, relevant, and contextual framework. In many medical schools, the lack of cadaver dissection as the primary method of learning is driving changes to more varied and novel learning and teaching methodologies. The present article describes the introduction and evaluation of a range of body painting exercises in a medical curriculum. Body painting was introduced into integrated clinical skills teaching sessions which included clinically important aspects of respiratory system, musculoskeletal system, and topics in regional anatomy including head and neck. Nontoxic body paints, easels, a mixture of brush sizes, and anatomical images were supplied. Students were allowed between 20 and 40 min to complete body painting tasks, in which they were encouraged to alternate between painting and acting as a model. Students were encouraged to use life-like rendering and coloration where appropriate. Evaluation of these sessions was performed at the end of the semester as part of a larger evaluation process. The kinesthetic nature and active participation together with the powerful visual images of underlying anatomy appear to contribute to the value of body painting as a teaching exercise. In addition, it may have the added bonus of helping break down apprehension regarding peer–peer examination. Some practical advice on introducing this method of teaching in medical curricula based on the outcomes of the evaluation is given. On the basis of our experience and student feedback, we strongly advocate the use of body painting as an adjunct to surface anatomy and clinical skills teaching classes. Anat Sci Ed 2008. © 2008 American Association of Anatomists.