How to use the Human Gross Anatomy dissector and web site for the laboratory portion of this course.

This is a how-to guide for this dissector and does not replace the information about lab in the Course Information section (http://www.duke.edu/web/anatomy/information.html).  That information is highly relevant and needed.  You should read it right now if you have not done so already because it explains the materials you will need and appropriate protocols for the lab and for dissection.

Note: This dissection manual was first written for the Gross Anatomy Course at Duke in the late 1960s.  The text was first developed by Matt Cartmill and James Shafland.  It was later expanded by Bill Hylander, Richard Kay, Ross McPhee, and Kathleen Smith.  In the 1980s Mari Bouvier significantly edited and improved it.  The manual was out of use from 2000-2010.  An edited online version was created by Gross Anatomy teaching staff in 2011.  That version is being revised steadily by the current staff of Gross Anatomy.  As a result you may see that some of the earlier labs look different in format and images from later lab.  Revised versions of each lab will be available at least one week before the actual lab.  By the end of the course the entire manual will be revised.

This is an intensive, fast-paced, classical cadaver-based anatomy course.  The laboratory portion of this course involves active dissection of a human cadaver and is designed to promote:

  1. an understanding of human anatomy through direct experience,
  2. an understanding of human anatomical variation by examination of multiple cadavers,
  3. functional and clinical aspects of human anatomy through direct examination of associations of systems, and
  4. team-based learning in an explicitly cooperative context through group work on the dissection including peer-to-peer teaching.  All of these skills will help you in the practice of clinical medicine.

This amazing experience cannot be done alone and without some guidance.  We believe that students learn best when allowed to do their own work at their own pace and to make discoveries on their own.  By the same token we also believe that students learn as much from mistakes as they do from perfect work.  But we know better than to simply throw you into a pool and hope you can swim.  We have assembled a team of faculty with a range of areas of expertise to help guide you in your dissection.  We are here to explain to you the steps you will be taking, the challenges you will face, and the best ways to master the knowledge you need to have to get the most out of this rare opportunity.  We are here to help you understand what you are seeing and fill in context and relevance to the myriad structures you will encounter.  We are NOT here to dissect for you or simply find and identify structures for you (OK, sometimes there are spots where you really will need our help and we won’t refuse.  But we want you to do this on your own and in your team). 

So to make sure you can do this as independently and competently as possible we have prepared this dissection manual (the dissector) and some Duke-based videos.  To get the most of lab you have to be prepared for what you will be doing and some background knowledge of what structures you will encounter.  That is why this dissector has pre-lab work and a number of in-lab assessments.

There are a lot of dissectors out there on the market.  Some are wonderful.  But they are also long and detailed.  Duke students have found since the late 1960s that these dissectors are not suitable for everyday use in a fast-paced course like ours.  But some students do find a formal dissector is helpful for preparation.  If you do feel that way, we recommend Grant’s Dissector (14th or 15th editions are very nice, but any old edition will do). 

We have prepared a Duke-based dissection specially designed for this course and we have made it available on this web site.  The total dissector contains three clear sections to be used at different times and in different ways as well as a testing mode.  All of these sections are designed with Duke’s unique curriculum in mind.  But really, the dissector is designed to make sure you get the most out of your lab experience.  Being prepared for lab means you will be more efficient, construct deeper levels of knowledge, and ask deeper and more relevant questions of your instructors in lab.

Here are the sections and how to use them.

1. Pre-Lab Preparation:

  1. Reading the dissector itself is critical for pre-lab preparation.  How the dissector is arranged is covered below.  Suffice it to say you should read through the dissector once before coming to lab. 

  2. Pre-lab Quiz:  The pre-lab quizzes are online exercises posted on BlueDocs with questions related to the dissection procedures and/or the anatomical structures that will be encountered in the lab for that day.  The exercises must be completed PRIOR to the start of each lab.  These quizzes are open-resource and not timed and most of the questions can be answered by referring to the online dissector or your textbooks.

  3. Pre-lab Modules (not for every lab): This involves a formal pre-lab section on the web site (usually a review of the osteolgy and/or surface anatomy) and, of course, reading the dissector beforehand.  How you use the dissector before lab and in lab will be very different.

There is some material that you should know before lab.  Lectures will explicitly prepare you for the big concepts.  But some of the smaller ones need to be dealt with before lab.  For example, it is important to know the names and anatomy of bony structures before lab.  You will have access to the skeletons in the lab and the bones in the model room 24 hours a day.  Your group will also have a bone box.  Some of the pre-lab work will involve familiarizing yourself with the bones.  It is also important to know relevant microanatomy, physiology, and embryology concepts before lab.  We will sometimes remind you of relevant facts in this section as well and refer you to relevant lectures.  We may also provide connections between imaging and anatomy that will be helpful for preparation (although there will also be discrete modules for that throughout the course).

The pre-lab section will provide information and instructions for self-teaching.

Finally, for some days we will prepare pre-lab videos.  You should watch these before lab and during lab.  These videos are really how-to videos.  There are certain sections that are harder to dissect than others and involve more complex topics.  We provide short videos on how to proceed with those dissections.  Students learn best by doing work for themselves.  These do not serve as a prosection nor do they provide detailed anatomical knowledge.  They are there to prepare you for the harder procedures.  Some students turn also to professional videos (we provide links).  Please know that these are professional videos done by anatomists with ideal cadavers and lots of time on their hands.  Please do not try to follow their procedures (which are often complex and time-consuming) or assume that your dissection will look like theirs.  All bodies are unique.  Knowing that is key to your success in Gross Anatomy and as a doctor.


2. The dissector.

The dissector is your road map and your instruction manual.  We provide straightforward directions (like a cookbook) along with warnings, hints, and context (like a really good cookbook).  So it is organized in the following manner:

  1. Objectives. A list of objectives and goals for the lab describing what you need to accomplish and the pace over which that might be accomplished (some objectives and tasks overlap lab days).  These will be indicated in a number list.  These are the goals for the specific lab.

  2. Procedures.  These will be generally in the form a bullet-point step-by-step guide.  We will also note the kind of challenges that we know you will face with some of the procedures (not all procedures are equally easy) and some hints about how to get through those challenges. Hints will be a clickable link and appear as a pop-up.  Please don’t skip any of the hints.  They will make your life easier.

  3. Images. For each section of work (based largely on the objectives) there will be large images embedded directly in the text.  These large images give an overview of the anatomy and/or illustrated instruction (i.e. where to make cuts).  There will also be a few smaller thumbnail images that, when clicked on, will open in a new window and provide detailed information for a section.  These are NOT a substitute for an anatomical atlas.  Your table must have an atlas available and you should use it. Remember your group should buy one atlas (Grant Atlas 13th edition) for use in the lab (see other details on course requirements for further information).

  4. Context. The anatomy dissection will seem irrelevant and take on a scavenger-hunt quality if not placed in context.  So we will also provide Functional Anatomy sections that explain how the systems you are examining work together in the healthy body.  At the end of the dissector on some days you will find clinical notes for additional context. 

In this way this dissector lays out a plan (objectives), gives step-by-step instructions (procedures), and context (functional and clinical).  Each section can be referred to as appropriate before, during, and after lab (as you prepare for exams).

To be well-prepared and to maximize your time in lab we recommend:

  1. that every member of the team read the dissector beforehand,
  2. that on any given day one member should be the team leader. That member of the team would spend time becoming especially well-prepared and will lead the dissection by reminding the team of the steps and reading aloud the instructions as the team works,
  3. everybody must have equal turns doing the actual dissecting because students learn the most by actual experience,
  4. using your instructional staff for help and guidance.

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Updated 09/26/13 - Velkey