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  • Human anatomy is best learned depending on how one is going to use that knowledge.

    Radiologist are more concerned with cross sectional anatomy. The images they deal with on a daily basis from X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds are basically cross sections of the body. Thus, to learn the anatomy of a human for a person who is going to look at cross sections of humans all day the best way to learn it is by looking at those cross sections. Radiologists go through years of training during their residency looking at cross sectional pictures of patients with Attending physicans/teachers checking their work until they get it right. It is rote memorization and pattern recognition.

    Surgeons are more concerned with the 3 dimensional aspects of anatomy. They deal with anatomic problems that exist in real time and do not have the luxury of imaging modalities while operating (though these radiologic images are helpful in guiding the type of treatment needed). So for a surgeon gross anatomy, with its dissection of human cadavers is more useful. Of course, most surgeons are too busy to cut up dead people – there are a lot of sick, living, people who need operations. So again, repetition is the name of the game – of course supplemented with pictures and text descriptions for preparation (every medical student is familiar with Netter’s Picture Atlas of Anatomy).

    Most Anatomy courses in medical school will have a overlap of all four ways of learning anatomy – cross sectional radiographic imagery, pictures, textual description and gross dissection. Depending on the progressiveness of the medical school they might offer different anatomy courses to different students who know the area of medicine they wish to specialize in. For instance, knowledge of the peripheral nerves is essential to the orthopedist and anesthesiologist, but of less value to the general or abdominal surgeon.

    So the best way to learn it depends on how you are going to use it. But a common thread for all people who need anatomic knowledge is the repetition and rote memorization that is needed to master this vast and often counterintuitive body of work. Practice, it has been said, makes perfect and this holds true for any anatomist…practical or academic

  • In a class with a qualified professor, a good textbook and electronic teaching aids, and a cadaver to dissect under the tutelage of a qualified teaching assistant.

    That is how professional anatomists and physicians do it.

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