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 Table of Contents 
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 190-193  

Attitudes and views of medical students toward anatomy learnt in the preclinical phase at King Khalid University

Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, King Khalid University, PO Box 641, Abha, Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication13-Oct-2012

Correspondence Address:
Mohammed A Kemeir
Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, King Khalid University, P.O. Box 641, Abha
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8229.102320

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Objective: The objective of the present study was to determine the views and attitude of clinical medical students toward gross anatomy courses taught to them in preclinical years and their relevance to their medical practice. Materials and Methods: A structured questionnaire of 16 items was distributed to 146 clinical students. The study group included both genders (104 males and 42 females). A total of 121 students (83%) responded to the questionnaire. Results: The responses obtained in relation to the clarity of the anatomy course outline its impact on their ability to think and solve problems, develop their skills as members of a team, and its relevance to their clinical practice and their ability to engage in common clinical practices were negative. Conclusion : There is an urgent need to redesign the anatomy curriculum in King Khalid University in order to enable the graduates to deliver adequate health care to the community.

Keywords: Anatomy course, attitude, King Khalid University, medical students

How to cite this article:
Kemeir MA. Attitudes and views of medical students toward anatomy learnt in the preclinical phase at King Khalid University. J Fam Community Med 2012;19:190-3

How to cite this URL:
Kemeir MA. Attitudes and views of medical students toward anatomy learnt in the preclinical phase at King Khalid University. J Fam Community Med [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Oct 22];19:190-3. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Studies conducted in several universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to evaluate changes to medical curricula, were designed to obtain constructive feedback from the students to help in possible future reforms. These reforms are intended to make course content effective and relevant to the future careers of the graduates. Khalid's [1] review of the curricula offered to students in medical schools in the Gulf Corporation (GCC) found that 40% of the medical colleges in the GCC followed the traditional curriculum, while the remaining 60% used the new trend of innovative hybrid form of problem-based learning (PBL) curricula. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however, 9 of the 22 government medical colleges [2] including the college of medicine of King Khalid University (KKU) followed the traditional medical curriculum. The majority of colleges are planning to change from their traditional curricula to innovative ones. Almost all new medical colleges are adopting the hybrid PBL curricula. [1] Al-Damegh and Baig [3] compared an integrated PBL curriculum of Al-Qasem campus with a traditional discipline-based curriculum of Al-Riyadh campus. They found that the PBL improved students' use of learning resources, problem-solving abilities, and gave the students satisfaction with what they learnt and the curriculum as a whole.

In King Saud University, Alam [4] conducted a study on the perception of medical students of basic sciences courses at that university (the traditional curriculum). She found that students were not able to recall information from almost all the basic sciences courses. She also noted that the majority of student's perceived anatomy and pathology as overloaded with content. However, with regard to anatomy, she found that the practical sessions contributed positively to reinforcing theoretical understanding and were rated the highest in that respect.

Abha College of Medicine was established on the December 16, 1981 at Abha, a city situated in the south-west of Saudi Arabia. It was the fourth college of medicine in the Kingdom. On May 4, 1982, it was affiliated to King Saud University and in the academic year 1998/1999, it became part of KKU. In the college of medicine, KKU, the traditional anatomy education is based on topographical structural anatomy. The course is given in the second year, levels 3 and 4, and in the third year level 5 when the neuroscience course is taught by the department of physiology. Gross anatomy is taught by lectures and complete dissections of human cadavers, supplemented with other teaching aids such as plastinated, prosected specimens, plastic models, and electronic media. Assessment methods at level 12 consist of two examinations: a mid-term and a final examination. Each examination consists of two parts: written (Multiple choice questions and short answer questions) and Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE).

The objective of this study was to identify the views and attitudes of medical students toward their anatomy courses in the preclinical years and the relevance of these courses to their clinical practice.

   Materials and Methods Top

This cross-sectional observation study was conducted in the College of Medicine at KKU, Abha, Saudi Arabia. A total of 146 clinical students (level 12) of both genders (104 males and 42 females), who had finished all of their clinical courses participated in this study.

A questionnaire was distributed to a total of 146 male and female students after approval had been obtained from the department of anatomy, and the students had given their consent. The questionnaire [Appendix 1] consisted of 16 items eliciting students' opinion on the methods of teaching, learning resources, curriculum, cognitive domains, assessment, and the relevance of gross anatomy to clinical situations.

   Results Top

Out of the 146 male and female students 121 (82.8%) completed the questionnaire. Their views are presented under the following subheadings:

Method of teachings

A total of 65.7% of the students agreed that the course outline was not clear. Fifty-two percent of the students agreed that lectures and presentations in anatomy were helpful in the acquisition of knowledge, whereas 53% agreed that dissection sessions improved their understanding of the subject and developed their practical skills.

Learning resources

A total of 53% of the students agreed that the recommended textbooks,  Atlas More Detailses, Dissector manuals were appropriate; 62% of the students agreed that the study of anatomy through the dissection of cadavers was the best method of learning anatomy, whereas 66.4% agreed that the use of plastinated materials, prosected specimens, and models augmented their learning.


A total of 67.9% of the students felt that the amount of work they had to do in this course was more than the allocated credit hours. A total of 59.7% of the students agreed that the gross anatomy course was helpful in understanding other basic science courses such as physiology and biochemistry.

Cognitive domains

A total of 62.6% of the students found that the gross anatomy course did not improve their ability to think and solve problems since they simply memorized the information.

A total of 65.9% of the students said that the course did not help them to develop their skills as members of a health team, whereas 63.2% said that the course did not improve their ability to communicate effectively.


A total of 61.2% of the students agreed that the grades for the continuous assessment and the final examination were neither fair nor reasonable.

Relevance to clinical application

A total of 74.6% of level 12 students agreed that the study of gross anatomy was essential for the understanding of other clinical courses. However, 51.5% of the students indicated that the teaching of anatomy and the knowledge acquired were irrelevant to clinical practice. Furthermore, 60.4% of the students said that the study of gross anatomy did not develop their ability to perform common clinical procedures, such as lumbar puncture, catheterization, I.V lines, etc.

Overall dissatisfaction with the course

More than two-thirds of the students (69.4%) were dissatisfied with the quality of the anatomy courses they were given. These results are summarized in [Table 1].
Table 1: Satisfaction with anatomy courses

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   Discussion Top

This study is the first of its kind to be conducted in the college of medicine of KKU. Few studies have been undertaken in many of the other medical colleges in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The present study revealed that, students in the clinical years had forgotten the details of the course outline of the gross anatomy course. The students were dissatisfied with the examination grades, which they said were neither fair nor reasonable. This calls for a thorough review of the assessment methods of the courses. The course instructors (especially new staff to the department) are informed to strictly follow the learning objectives of the curriculum determined by the department.

In the cognitive domain responses, the gross anatomy course did not seem to have improved the ability of the clinical students to think and solve problems. This is most likely due to the nature of the traditional method of teaching anatomy. Therefore, the curriculum of the anatomy course is in urgent need of reform to enable students to solve problems they would encounter in their clinical years. One way of achieving this is by adopting a PBL approach as suggested by Al-Gamegh and Baig. [3]

With regard to the relevance of anatomy to clinical practice, more than half of the clinical students felt that the course was irrelevant. This finding is alarming and means that a thorough scrutiny of the course content is required, for the course offered in the preclinical years obviously lacks material that students in the clinical years need such as imagery in the form of surface anatomy, cross-sectional and imaging anatomy. The finding is also supported by the recent study of Alam [4] who pointed out that more students from the higher classes felt that the basic science syllabi were so overloaded that students recalled very little information they had studied, and also that the course content had little application to clinical practice.

With regard to performing common clinical procedures, such as lumbar puncture, catheterization, intravenous lines, etc., students seemed to have forgotten the anatomical basis for these procedures.

The majority of students felt that the anatomy course did not help them to work in a team. The reasons for this could be the student:staff ratio of 21:1. Team work is fostered by the close supervision of instructors. In addition, group leaders play an important role in getting students to work as a team. Teaching in small groups around the cadaver in the dissecting room helps students to bond with colleagues, increases interactions and improves their communications skills.

Alam [4] reported that students were unable to recall information from almost all basic science courses in the clinical years. She attributed this to volume overload, lack of knowledge application, and teaching methods; her findings are supported by the findings in this study. This phenomenon is not unique to our students, D'Eon [5] reported considerable knowledge loss in medical students in the three basic sciences courses tested in the university of Saskatchewan, Canada. Lazić et al. [6] in investigating the same issue, found that students regarded basic medical subjects as peripheral to the medical profession and thus tend to forget them during their years of study. D'Eon [5] and Lazić et al. [6] agreed that the time allocated to the teaching of anatomy was insufficient. It is worth mentioning that gross anatomy is taught in two semesters only. The best way to overcome this is by decreasing the information given to students. In a review article, Al Gendan et al.[7] found that the traditional medical curricula in Saudi Arabia have been criticized for a number of reasons including overcrowding, overrepresentation of some subjects, dissociation between basic and clinical sciences. This could be resolved by decreasing the content, introducing clinically relevant topics, fostering an effective vertical integration with the clinical departments, and gradually introducing a PBL curriculum. Alshehri [8] suggested that it was not necessary to change the current curricula in Saudi medical colleges and introduce new innovative approaches. What was required was the adoption of a community-based approach with a teacher-centered curriculum, or the introduction of PBL with a hospital-based approach. Our college of medicine is currently evaluating the entire curriculum in order to provide effective community health care.

In conclusion, it is felt that there is an urgent need to redesign the gross anatomy curriculum in KKU to make it more practical and clinically oriented, in order to deliver better healthcare to the community.

   References Top

1.Khalid A. The current status of medical education in the Gulf Cooperation council countries. Ann Saudi Med 2008;28:81-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Al-Moamary MS, Mamede S, Schmidt HG. Innovations in Medical Internship: Benchmarking and application within the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University of Health Sciences. Educ Health (Abingdon) 2010;23:367.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.AL-Gamegh SA, Baig LA. Comparison of an integrated problem-based curriculum with the traditional discipline-based curriculum in KSA. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak 2005;15:605-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Alam A. How do medical students in their clinical years perceive basic science courses at King Saud University. Ann Saudi Med 2011;31:58-61.  Back to cited text no. 4
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5.D'Eon MF. Knowledge loss of medical students on first year basic science course at the University of Saskatchewan. BMC Med Educ 2006:6:5.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Laziæ E, Dujmoviæ J, Hren D. Retention of basic sciences knowledge at clinical years of medical curriculum. Croat Med J 2006, 47:882-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Al-Gindan YM, Al-Sulaiman AA, Al-Faraidy A. Undergraduate Curriculum reform in Saudi Medical Schools. Which direction to go. Saudi Med J 2000;21:324-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Alsheri MY. Medical curricula in Saudi medical colleges: current and future perspectives. Ann Saudi Med 2001;21:320-3.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Table 1]

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