Developing observational skills and knowledge of anatomical relationships in an art and anatomy workshop using plastinated specimens

Charleen M. Moore, Constance Lowe, Jane Lawrence, Penelope Borchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


One of the strong trends in medical education today is the integration of the humanities into the basic medical curriculum. The anatomy program is an obvious choice for using the humanities to develop professionalism and ethical values. They can also be used to develop close observational skills. Many medical schools have developed formal art observation training in conjunction with nearby art museums to enhance the visual diagnostic skills of their medical students. We report here on an art and anatomy workshop that paired medical and art students who did drawing exercises from plastinated anatomical specimens and the animated face to hone observational skills. Each member of the pair brought a different perspective and expertise to the work that allowed each to be a mentor to the other. The workshop had three sessions: the first involved drawings of plastinated specimens that allowed an intimate experience with authentic human material; the second involved drawings of the human face; and the third included examination of anatomical texts of important anatomist-artists, a lecture on contemporary artists whose work involves anatomy, and a film demonstrating the facial muscles. We propose workshops such as these will help students increase their ability to detect details. This will assist the medical student in developing diagnostic skills for identifying disease and the art student in using the human body as subject. We further propose that these programs will help students develop humanistic sensitivities and provide an outlet for expression of the emotional aspects of dealing with disease and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-301
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Anatomy education
  • Art students
  • Gross anatomy
  • Innovative teaching
  • Interprofessional education
  • Observational skills
  • Plastinated specimens
  • Visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology


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