Learn Anatomy Like a Boss

If you are trying to catch a whale, you’re going to need a bigger net. The net is basic context– especially important in anatomy. Before lecture, I look for a YouTube video that explains the concept in under 10 minutes. Don’t waste energy memorizing discrete details or vocabulary until you understand the concepts. Build your intellectual infrastructure by making as many connections as possible between everything you learn with what you already know.

Remember that form follows function, so whenever we look at a new structure, think about what it is doing and why the human body evolved the way it did. Learn anatomy as a rich narrative rather than as a bullet-point list. Especially in the cadaver lab, think of the embryology, histology, and physiology of every structure you touch. The best story-tellers are the professional anatomists, and so take advantage of their passion. If you want a broader introduction to dissections, I recommend Acland’s Anatomy videos, although you will have to pay a subscription fee.

Use the right tools. This varies depending on your style, but it is important to find a way to self-test (I prefer paper flashcards, but I am experimenting with Anki). Pull out the relevant flashcards, and highlight only the items you need to learn for the class. We’re already overloaded, so don’t take on more Netter than you have to. For the 3D experience, invest in an app like Essential Anatomy.

Create Artifacts. Using Anki or pen/paper to create flashcards while you read will make you more engaged and give you something condensed to study from. Never reread the primary source. Your goal in reading the primary source in the first place should be to create artifacts to study from in the future. Effective studying creates artifacts, be they flashcards, summaries, or even temporary drawings on a whiteboard.

For every single lecture, review on the same day to take advantage of short-term memory. If you missed a previous lecture, focus on today’s lecture first. Unless the missed material is foundational, it is better to put it off rather than sacrifice your daily review. However, you can’t review what you didn’t learn in the first place, so don’t wait until the days leading up to the exam to start on a topic. If there is something that doesn’t make sense, address it as soon as possible, preferably with the professor one-on-one.

In Summary:

Start from the broadest overview possible

Learn Anatomy as a narrative

Use the right tools to self-test

Create artifacts every time you study

Review on the same day

*Bonus Tip: Learn the Greek and Latin roots of medical vocab and you will be able to intuit your way through Anatomy


One response to “Learn Anatomy Like a Boss

  1. Pingback: Ace the Anatomy Lab Exam | Mad Med Student·

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