Anatomical knowledge retention in third-year medical students prior to obstetrics and gynecology and surgery rotations

Rosalyn A. Jurjus, Juliet Lee, Samantha Ahle, Kirsten M. Brown, Gisela Butera, Ellen F. Goldman, Jill M. Krapf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Surgical anatomy is taught early in medical school training. The literature shows that many physicians, especially surgical specialists, think that anatomical knowledge of medical students is inadequate and nesting of anatomical sciences later in the clinical curriculum may be necessary. Quantitative data concerning this perception of an anatomical knowledge deficit are lacking, as are specifics as to what content should be reinforced. This study identifies baseline areas of strength and weakness in the surgical anatomy knowledge of medical students entering surgical rotations. Third-year medical students completed a 20-25-question test at the beginning of the General Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynecology rotations. Knowledge of inguinal anatomy (45.3%), orientation in abdominal cavity (38.8%), colon (27.7%), and esophageal varices (12.8%) was poor. The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of questions answered correctly per topic. In comparing those scores to matched test items from this cohort as first-year students in the anatomy course, the drop in retention overall was very significant (P=0.009) from 86.9 to 51.5%. Students also scored lower in questions relating to pelvic organs (46.7%), urogenital development (54.0%), pulmonary development (17.8%), and pregnancy (17.8%). These data showed that indeed, knowledge of surgical anatomy is poor for medical students entering surgical clerkships. These data collected will be utilized to create interactive learning modules, aimed at improving clinically relevant anatomical knowledge retention. These modules, which will be available to students during their inpatient surgical rotations, connect basic anatomy principles to clinical cases, with the ultimate goal of closing the anatomical knowledge gap. Anat Sci Educ 7: 461-468.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-468
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical clerkships
  • Gross anatomy education
  • Knowledge retention
  • Medical education
  • Obstetrics and gynecology rotations
  • Pelvic anatomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology


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