Tips for studying anatomy in medical school
Anatomy is an integral part of medical school education and requires a good working knowledge from doctors and anyone else in the medical and healthcare fields. Anatomy is a vast subject area. There is a lot for medical students to learn, and considerable time is spent dissecting cadavers and mastering the anatomy of the human body.
Anatomy is a subject that many medical students enjoy studying, but it can also be exceptionally challenging. If you find anatomy a challenging topic or want to improve your approach to studying it, we've compiled some anatomy study tips to help you.
What is anatomy?
Anatomy is a branch of biology that studies the structures of the human body. Anatomy considers the structure and position of organs of the body, such as bones, glands, and muscles. An anatomist is a person who studies anatomy.
Studies of anatomy have traditionally involved the dissection of organisms. However, many schools have replaced this with imaging technology which shows how the inside of a body works. Having an understanding of human anatomy is key to practicing medicine and other areas of health.
What are the branches of anatomy?
Anatomy is divided into several branches of study, including:
- Cardiovascular physiology: The functions of blood vessels and the heart
- Cell biology: Cellular structure and functions
- Developmental anatomy: The complete development of a person from conception to death
- Embryology: The first eight weeks of development after the fertilization of a human egg
- Endocrinology: Study of hormones and how they control functions of the body
- Exercise physiology: Changes in organ and cell functions due to muscular activity
- Gross anatomy: Structure of the human body and organs as a whole
- Histology: Microscopic structure of cells, organs, and tissues
- Imaging anatomy: Body structures seen with CT scans, MRI and X-rays
- Immunology: Study of the body's defenses against disease
- Neurophysiology: Functional properties of nerve cells
- Pathological anatomy: Structural changes related to disease
- Phytotomy: Anatomical study of plants
- Regional anatomy: Specific regions of the body such as the chest or head
- Renal physiology: Kidney functions
- Respiratory physiology: Functions of the lungs and air passageways
- Surface anatomy: Surface markings of the body to understand internal anatomy through sight and touch
- Systemic anatomy: Structure of specific systems of the human body such as the respiratory or nervous systems
- Zootomy: Anatomical study of animals
Difference between anatomy and physiology
While medical schools often teach them together, physiology is separate from the study of anatomy. Anatomy is the study of the structure of the parts of an organism, such as the human body. Meanwhile, physiology focuses on the way those parts work and function together.
For example, the heart's anatomy means the heart's structure, such as its valves, veins, chambers, and arteries. The physiology of the heart means how the heart pumps the blood.
Although anatomy and physiology are both fundamental fields of biology and relate to the body parts of living beings, there are many differences between the two.
Anatomy vs Physiology
Study of various structures of the body.
Study of various functions of the body, such as urinal and respiration functions.
Studies the dead and living.
Only studies the living.
Enables people to understand the various body parts of a living being, whether human or otherwise.
Enables people to understand how these body parts work.
Why do you need to study anatomy as a medical student?
So, why would a doctor today need to study anatomy? Studying anatomy is important for any medical student intending to perform physical examinations on patients, carry out invasive procedures, examine radiological imaging, refer a patient to another physician, or explain a procedure to a patient. Knowledge of the human body structure and how the systems interact enables doctors to determine the right care for each patient and their specific symptoms. A good foundation of anatomy gives doctors the building blocks they need to make the right decisions for their patients and provide accurate and quality care.
How to study anatomy?
Anatomy is one of the most content-rich subjects you will study at medical school. There's a huge range of elements to learn and remember, making it a daunting subject to study if you don't have a good study plan. But with hard work, time, and effective learning and memorization tips, it's possible to make anatomy an interesting and enjoyable subject to study. Here is our study guide for human anatomy and physiology.
Create an anatomy glossary
Studying anatomy at medical school is like learning a whole new language. To help you learn and memorize key anatomy terminologies, create an anatomy glossary that you can keep with you. Learning the generalized terms can be really helpful in improving your anatomy knowledge and boosting your confidence.
Repetition is key
Considering the volume of anatomy definitions and intricate terms you need to learn, reread your notes and coursework daily to keep all the material fresh in your mind. But to avoid it getting monotonous, switch up your study styles from simple reciting to creating flashcards, mnemonics, drawing diagrams, or watching video tutorials.
Study early and often
Schedule your study time rather than cramming on the night before. It's a good idea to allocate 90 to 2 hours for outside study for every hour you spend in the classroom. When you are learning a new and complex subject such as anatomy, you must keep up with all of the course material and get into the habit of regularly reviewing your coursework, ideally daily.
Join or create a study group
Forming a group with other anatomy students that you can work well with can help make your study sessions more effective. Aim to regularly meet with your study group to go over lecture notes and recap what was taught in each session. You can then quiz each other or go over any anatomy concepts you struggled with. A study group can also help you with your studies and keep you accountable.
Regularly testing yourself, especially at the end of a topic, will help you see which areas of your learning need more focus. Use old exam papers or create test questions with your group members to quiz each other to improve your exam performance and see what areas you need to improve.
Make the most of dissection and anatomy tutorials
If your medical school offers cadaver dissection sessions or anatomy tutorials, it can be enormously beneficial if you prepare for them beforehand. Learn the names of structures within the section of the body you will learn about in the session. Preparing for each session will help you to get the most out of your anatomy classes and allow you to test your understanding and ask any questions you have.
Learn in sections
It's extremely difficult to learn the whole anatomy of the body in one go. Therefore, break the human body down into sections and link the sections together later. This will help you learn the specific sections in detail and avoid anatomy becoming overwhelming.
Link structure and function
It's common to know about the function of an organ before learning about anatomy. To help your learning, try linking the structures in the body to their function. Linking concepts in this way can help you retain new information.
Take detailed notes
When taking notes during anatomy class, only record the important points or shortened sentences. Immediately after the session, create questions based on the lecture materials to help improve your information retention and provide you with good questions for upcoming quizzes and exams.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in medicine, apply to our MD program today. You can also get in touch with us if you have any questions or if you'd like to learn more about how you can apply to our study program.