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How we teach anatomy

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An understanding of anatomy is foundational to any medical degree. Here you will study the systems of the human body and the anatomical relationships between them. Read on to find out more about how we teach anatomy at the School of Medicine.

Our Anatomy Team is led by Debs Patten, Professor of Anatomy, whose career spans over 20 years. She has a wealth of experience having worked in anatomy teaching departments at various Universities. Her team includes Dr Kate Dulohery and Dr James Nott who are Senior Lecturers, and the whole team have experience of teaching anatomy to medical, dentistry, pharmacy and bioscience students. You will also be taught anatomy by clinical teachers from the local hospital trusts, including surgeons, radiologists and sonographers.

We use a blended approach to teach gross anatomy and living anatomy. Virtual dissection is carried out using a range of tools including an Anatomage Table, Virtual Human Dissector software and Complete Anatomy software. Clinical imaging is a regular element of our teaching and includes the use of portable ultrasound. 

During your first year you will have 2 hours of taught anatomy teaching a week, with additional work to be completed outside the classroom. You will study the body systems relevant to the weekly problem-based learning cases. Each week there will be presentations and you will use a range of different resources bespoke to the topic.

Adam Rouilly anatomical models

We have models of all the body systems, and you will use these in almost every lesson to gain a haptic or hands-on experience of anatomy, this will help you to understand how the structures of the body fit together.

Shelves displaying Adam Rouilly anatomical models in the anatomy lab

Adam Rouilly anatomical models in the Anatomy Lab

Body Painting

Body painting creates a visual reference of an organ or bony landmark on the surface of the skin. It even helps aid your recall of where these bony landmarks and organs lie beneath the skin. Locating and palpating (or feeling) the bony landmarks is an essential part of a clinical examination; these landmarks guide your hands, a stethoscope or an ultrasound probe in the examination of the organs of the body. You will work in pairs or small groups and you will have the opportunity to self-select to ensure you are comfortable.

Debs Patten painting a heart on a human model

Professor Debs Patten demonstrating bodypainting

Portable ultrasound

Technological advances over the last decade have seen both the miniaturisation and falling costs of imaging equipment such as ultrasound. Portable ultrasound machines are now routinely used in the hospital setting, especially in Emergency Medicine, but they are also now being used in the primary care setting. Ultrasound is a safe, non-ionising imaging tool which enables you to listen to the sounds of the body and to visualise the structures beneath the skin. Some clinicians predict that it will in time replace the stethoscope.

We want to ensure our graduates are prepared for their clinical training and practice, and for their inevitable encounters with portable ultrasound. With the support of sonographers and the anatomy team, you will be taught how to use ultrasound equipment and how to interpret sonograms and you will have the opportunity to scan our patient volunteers. By the time you move into clinical practice you will be comfortable using ultrasound, understand ultrasound physics and know how to interpret ultrasound images.

A sonographer carrying out ultrasound on patient

Sonographer demonstrating ultrasound on a patient volunteer

Touch screen computers

Within the anatomy lab we have touch screen computers and use Virtual Human Dissector Software which allows you to interact with correlated 3D and cross-sectional views of over 2,000 anatomical structures through identification, dissection, assembly and rotation. This helps you to understand the complex three-dimensional structure of the human body. We also have Complete Anatomy software which provides detailed 3D accurate anatomy models for self-study and revision. Complete Anatomy is available to you on your own personal devices for your studies in year 1 and 2.

Anatomage table

The Anatomage table provides a touch-screen ‘operating table’ to deliver virtual cadaveric dissection alongside radiology, pathology, embryology and histology learning resources and clinical content. It enables you to see anatomy in ways you wouldn’t see in a dissecting room, for example you can colour code blood vessels or the nervous system and you can make surrounding organs or structures transparent so you can make sense of anatomical relationships. As you are taught in small groups you will get the chance to use the table for yourself.

An image of the brain taken from the anatomage table

An image of the brain taken from the Anatomage Table


In early 2022 the University unveiled its new multi-million pound Anatomy Centre facility, which is designed to help train the next generation of medical professionals. The centre delivers a truly blended anatomy curriculum incorporating the best of our digital approaches alongside anatomical dissections prepared by experts (known as prosections). Cadaveric anatomy will allow you to improve your depth perception, spatial orientation and appreciate the complexity and variability of the human body. Cadaveric anatomy may also be your first encounter with death, so we will teach you about death and how to respect your patient at all times, in life and in death. This hands-on experience will provide you with authentic tactile information on tissue texture which, when coupled with 3D visualization of anatomic structures, will give you a memorable learning experience.

An exterior shot of the brand new Anatomy Centre

The brand new Anatomy Centre at City Campus

Learn more

To find out more about our medicine course, check out our course page or join us at our next Open Day.

Published: 4 October 2022