Investing in Anatomy

Archival image of anatomy lab

T‌here’s an art and a science to the study of anatomy, but for ‌many medical students today, dissection is becoming a lost ‌experience. Not so at U of T, where a major overhaul to the old ‌basement Anatomy Laboratories will ensure real-life dissection ‌continues its important role in medical education.

The renovation is the first since the 1960s. Gone will be the harsh fluorescent lights and 70s-era TV screens tucked into the corners. The new lab will feature 16 of the latest dissection tables, each with a computer screen. Each table will have a second level, doubling the capacity for dissections, and allowing the labs to be used by more students. And there will be easier access to professionally dissected samples for comparison.

“Working with a cadaver is a life-changing experience, and it solidifies what I learn in a way that a textbook never could," says Melin Peng, co-president for U of T Med’s class of 2019 along with Michael Gritti. Gritti adds that the anatomy lab “gives you your first real opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn the respect you need to give all patients.”

“The best way to learn anatomy is through dissection,” says Professor Cindi Morshead (BSc ’86, PhD ’94), Chair of the Division of Anatomy. “I lecture about the brain, but the best way to really understand its anatomy is when you see it up close and learn about the relationship between structures. I can show you a brachial plexus, but when I’m dissecting it, I have to take out muscle and bone. I learn how everything relates together. I see an extra layer of complexity.”

Rendering of the future lab by Karen NguyenRendering of the future lab by Karen Nguyen
Many medical schools now offer only professionally dissected body parts or even 3D digital models, says Morshead. But some medical students say they chose U of T in part because of its hands-on dissection program.

“Students often mention that these cadavers are their first patients,” she says. “There’s a lot of empathy to be learned from someone who gave them the gift of learning. It’s quite profound and I think they always realize that.”

The increased capacity comes at a crucial time. Curriculum changes require lab access outside of normal teaching hours, as students integrate anatomy learning throughout their medical education, rather than in one block.

Beginning with a general cadaveric dissection early in the program, they now return to the anatomy lab to focus on various systems as they move through their medical training. They spend an average of 138 hours in the lab each year, examining how various tissues and structures relate to one another and deepening their medical knowledge by returning to the space for self-directed learning.

Your support will enhance anatomy instruction for the approximately 2,000 students and trainees who use the facility each year.

To learn more about supporting the campaign for the anatomy laboratory, please contact:

Carmen Sebert
Senior Development Officer
Faculty of Medicine


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