Near-peer driven dissection selective: A primer to the medical school anatomy course

Sean Cantwell, George F. Bonadurer, Wojciech Pawlina, Nirusha Lachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In the anatomy laboratory, skill remains a critical component to unlocking the true value of learning from cadaveric dissection. However, there is little if any room for provision of instruction in proper dissection technique. We describe how near-peer instructors designed a supplemental learning activity to enhance the dissection experience for first-year medical students. This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of this curriculum in improving participants' understanding of dissection technique and its impact on perceived challenges associated with the anatomy course. Curriculum was designed under faculty guidance and included didactic sessions, low-fidelity models, dissection, student presentations, and clinical correlations. Participants' (n=13) knowledge of basic dissection techniques and concepts were assessed before the selective, and both participants' and nonparticipants' (n=39) knowledge was assessed at the end of week one and week seven of the anatomy course. Scores were compared using repeated measures ANOVA followed by post hoc t-tests. Thirteen deidentified reflective essays were reviewed by four independent reviewers for themes that aligned with learning objectives. Participants in the selective course scored higher on assessment of dissection techniques and concepts one week after the selective compared to both nonparticipants and their own baseline scores before the selective. Analysis of student reflections resulted in four themes: confidence with dissection skill, sharing resources and transfer of knowledge, learning environment, and psychological impact of perceived challenges of the anatomy course. Near-peer driven supplemental exercises are effective in facilitating dissection skills. This dissection primer increases student confidence and alleviates apprehension associated with anatomy courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)985-993
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • dissection skills
  • low fidelity simulation models
  • medical students
  • near-peer teaching
  • supplemental learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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