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How to Study Anatomy in Med School

Anatomy is often one of the first topics presented to medical students during their basic science courses, as it is a great foundation on which to build everything else. However, the details of anatomy are often lost and forgotten as time passes, and students often find it a challenging topic to revisit years after their initial exposure. If you are thinking, “does anatomy matter that much?” or “how should I attack the anatomy concept?” I have answers for you!

Resources for reviewing anatomy in med school:

1. UWorld

When you are reviewing your UWorld blocks, be on the lookout for questions that require anatomy knowledge. UWorld often has great pictures and it will show you how they expect you to apply anatomy concepts.

2. First Aid

If there is an anatomy diagram in First Aid, that means they definitely expect you to know and understand that structure. Keep an eye out for these and revisit them often!

3. BRS Anatomy

This is a great book written in short, clear, bullet points. This is a great reference to have if you need to reference something quickly, without getting bogged down or taking too much time!

4. “Clinical Anatomy Explained!” on YouTube 

Tied in with anatomy is embryology, and this YouTube video is my all-time favorite embryology resource for getting the complex developmental stages covered! He does a great job bringing the concepts to life with clay models. If you struggle with embryology, I would give his embryology playlist a look!

5. Don’t underestimate imaging!

The USMLE loves to put up an Xray/CT/MRI and ask you something regarding the image. I enjoyed this type of breakdown for a CT of the thorax on YouTube.

6. Go back to the resources you used for your anatomy class.

Whatever those may be, utilize the resources that helped you learn the material well in basic sciences. You will recognize the pictures and wording and concepts will come back to you more quickly.

Anatomy is a high-yield topic!

As you can see in reviewing the USMLE content outline, anatomy accounts for a significant portion of your USMLE Step 1 exam! These questions may be first order, they may be imaging questions, or they can ask you to apply your anatomical knowledge for a higher order concept. However way these questions may present, developing a solid foundation of anatomy will go a long way on test day!

Remember these common challenges of learning anatomy in med school:

  1. It can be boring. I get it, you may not get overly excited about memorizing structures and functions. What I advise is trying to think of a reason in the future that this information will matter to you. One day you may be in the ED and someone will come in with a stab wound to the chest, gunshot wound to the abdomen, or car crash with broken extremities and it will be YOUR JOB to think of what structures could be damaged (bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs, etc). Maybe you’ll be a surgeon in the OR where knowledge of anatomy is essential. Whatever your reason may be, this tactic can make anatomy more exciting and can help show how this information will be relevant in your future careers.
  2. It can be hard to visualize. Learning about something that we don’t normally see can be challenging. If you are a visual learner like me, I would try to find as many pictures as possible. Make anatomy come to life for you by looking at drawings, pictures, or 3D models. Essential Anatomy is an app I used that really helped with visualizing structures.