Acing Gross Anatomy

The important topics in gross anatomy (the topics that get tested) are almost always clinically relevant. When you finally get to your 3rd year surgery rotation the bizarre question selection on your anatomy final will make perfect sense. A lot of help it will be then.

Students that do well in anatomy often use many learning modalities. What the heck is a learning modality? Glad you asked. A "learning modality" is the route by which you learn something. For example, reading is a visual modality and what you read gets stored in a different way than what you hear. Things you learn through more than one sense (more than modality) stick better than things you learn just one way.

The four resources listed here emphasize the clinical aspects of gross anatomy, and each provides a different mode of learning. These resources complement the two learning modes you get in school - auditory (in lecture) and tactile/visual (in the dissection lab).

Graphic/visual learning. The atlas is a key source of information for the anatomy student. The single best atlas is without a doubt Netter's Human Anatomy. Not only is it one of the most beautiful books you'll ever own, it's also one of the best. Because Netter sets the style for almost all the modern medical arts, the way he represents anatomy is the standard and often shows up on tests. If you don't have Netter, get it (Click here for Netter Anatomy)!

Textual/linguistic learning. Moore's textbook: Clinical Oriented Anatomy has a good balance of anatomical detail and clinical vignette. The clinical emphasis helps you remember the anatomy by associating it with real-world problems. It also let's you know where you'll see the anatomy next: rib vasculature will be an issue when you place a chest tube, the inguinal canal defines the type of hernia, and so on.

Multimodal/computer learning. There are many on-line anatomy learning tools. Take a look at the anatomy study guide and on-line crossword puzzles for a start.

Mnemonic/associative learning. Some of the best medical mnemonics are for anatomy. Since this is a G-rated site, I won't quote any - but it's a well known fact that the more raunchy or offensive the mnemonic, the more memorable. The Medical Mnemonics site is great for this.

Preparing for the USMLE Step 1: Gross anatomy is a big part of USMLE step 1. See the USMLE page and usmle study guides for other resources on gross anatomy and preparing for the USMLE.