Anatomy instruction at Australian and New Zealand medical schools has been the
subject of considerable debate recently. Many commentators have lamented the
gradual devaluation of anatomy as core knowledge in medical courses. To date, much
of this debate has been speculative or anecdotal and lacking reliable supporting data.
To provide a basis for better understanding and more informed discussion, this study
analyses how anatomy is currently taught and assessed in Australian and New Zealand
A mailed questionnaire survey was sent to each of the 19 Australian and 2 New
Zealand medical schools, examining the time allocation, content, delivery and assessment
of anatomy for the 2008 academic year.
Nineteen of the 21 (90.5%) universities invited to participate completed the survey.
There was considerable variability in the time allocation, content, delivery and assessment
of anatomy in Australasian medical schools. The average total hours of anatomy
teaching for all courses was 171 h (SD 116.7, range 56/560).
Historical data indicate a major decline in anatomy teaching hours within medical
courses in Australia and New Zealand. Our results reveal that as there is no national
curriculum for anatomy instruction, the curriculum content, instruction methodology
and assessment is highly variable between individual institutions. Such variability in
anatomy teaching and assessment raises an important question: is there also variable
depth of understanding of anatomy between graduates of different medical courses?