National Survey on Canadian Undergraduate Medical Programs: The Decline of the Anatomical Sciences in Canadian Medical Education
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The anatomical sciences have always been regarded as an essential component of medical education. In Canada, the methodology and time dedicated to anatomy teaching are currently unknown. Two surveys were administered to course directors and discipline leaders to gain a comprehensive view of anatomical education in Canadian medical schools. Participants were queried about contact hours (classroom and laboratory), content delivery and assessment methods for gross anatomy, histology, and embryology. Twelve schools responded to both surveys, for an overall response rate of 64%. Overall, Canadian medical students spend 92.8 (± 45.4) hours (mean ± SD) studying gross anatomy, 25.2 (± 21.0) hours for histology, and 7.4 (± 4.3) hours for embryology. Gross anatomy contact hours statistically significantly exceeded those for histology and embryology. Results show that most content is delivered in the first year of medical school, as anatomy is a foundational building block for upper-year courses. Laboratory contact time for gross anatomy was 56.8 (± 30.7) hours, histology was 11.4 (± 16.2) hours, and embryology was 0.25 (± 0.6) hours. Additionally, 42% of programs predominantly used instructor/technician-made prosections, another 33% used a mix of dissection and prosections and 25% have their students complete cadaveric dissections. Teaching is either completely or partially integrated into all Canadian medical curricula. This integration trend in Canada parallels those of other medical schools around the world where programs have begun to decrease contact time in anatomy and increase integration of the anatomical sciences into other courses. Compared to published American data, Canadian schools offer less contact time. The reason for this gap is unknown. Further investigation is required to determine if the amount of anatomical science education within medical school affects students' performance in clerkship, residency and beyond.
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