Essential anatomy for core clerkships: A clinical perspective

Sarah A. Keim*, Derek J. Harmon, James R. Martindale, Elisabeth N. Lopez, Charles Sanky, William S. Brooks, Meghan M. Cotter, David L. Davies, Majid Doroudi, Jeffrey C. Fahl, Anna Farias, Guinevere Granite, Kelly M. Harrell, Rekha Kar, Kenneth L. Kramer, Jon Jackson, Shiloh Jones, Wendy Lackey-Cornelison, Jeffrey T. Laitman, Kimberly LatachaSteven R. Lewis, Amy Lovejoy Mork, Hassan Marzban, Thomas G. McNary, David L. McWhorter, Aftab Merchant, Jason C. Mussell, Melissa M. Quinn, Joy S. Reidenberg, Danielle Royer, Alan Sakaguchi, F. Kip Sawyer, Daniel B. Topping, Bruce Wainman, Lawrence E. Wineski, Ann C. Zumwalt, Mark H. Hankin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clerkships are defining experiences for medical students in which students integrate basic science knowledge with clinical information as they gain experience in diagnosing and treating patients in a variety of clinical settings. Among the basic sciences, there is broad agreement that anatomy is foundational for medical practice. Unfortunately, there are longstanding concerns that student knowledge of anatomy is below the expectations of clerkship directors and clinical faculty. Most allopathic medical schools require eight “core” clerkships: internal medicine (IM), pediatrics (PD), general surgery (GS), obstetrics and gynecology (OB), psychiatry (PS), family medicine (FM), neurology (NU), and emergency medicine (EM). A targeted needs assessment was conducted to determine the anatomy considered important for each core clerkship based on the perspective of clinicians teaching in those clerkships. A total of 525 clinical faculty were surveyed at 24 United States allopathic medical schools. Participants rated 97 anatomical structure groups across all body regions on a 1–4 Likert-type scale (1 = not important, 4 = essential). Non-parametric ANOVAs determined if differences existed between clerkships. Combining all responses, 91% of anatomical structure groups were classified as essential or more important. Clinicians in FM, EM, and GS rated anatomical structures in most body regions significantly higher than at least one other clerkship (p = 0.006). This study provides an evidence-base of anatomy content that should be considered important for each core clerkship and may assist in the development and/or revision of preclinical curricula to support the clinical training of medical students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-957
Number of pages15
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • anatomy curriculum
  • clerkships
  • clinical anatomy
  • curriculum development
  • emergency medicine
  • family medicine
  • general surgery
  • undergraduate medical education


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