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No Bones About the Med Student’s Anatomy Resources

The internet has revolutionized the way just about every discipline studies, and the medical profession is no exception. Medical students no longer lug around heavy books filled with intricate drawings and small type just to master human anatomy. The free online resources available on the web make learning about the human body as easy as pointing and clicking (and, of course, memorizing thousands of facts about the composition, structure, organization and chemistry of human anatomy).

Gross Anatomy Sites

There are a number of sites that are excellent for studying topographical, or gross, anatomy. Here are some of the best:

At ZygoteBody, human anatomy may be explored either by using the search tool to find a particular body part, or with the interactive point and click navigation. Beginning with a human form, the student can customize the field of study using the handy layers to the left of the screen. System choices include skeletal, muscular, digestive and circulatory. This program requires WebGL, which is only supported by certain browsers, and even then, may require additional steps to get it to work.

An oldie but a goodie, Gray’s Anatomy is available online for free through Bartleby. Less interactive than some other sites, Gray’s thorough treatment of the human body remains just as helpful in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. Comprehensive descriptions of even the smallest body part can be obtained quickly with the search engine. Illustrations are referenced within the text, and also found through browsing. One benefit of Bartleby’s low-tech site is that illustrations and text load quickly.

The Atlas of Human Anatomy has been translated and put online by professors from the University of Iowa. Originally published in 1841, this excellent resource allows students to access illustrations by image or description. Covering all major areas of the body, the illustrations begin with views of a sub-region, such as blood vessels of the neck and head, and then drill down to even smaller sections, such as arteries on the right side of the neck. This comprehensive resource has 37 major plates and dozens of sub-illustrations to aid with learning human anatomy.


Regional Sites

Offered for free by Professor Julius A. Ogeng’o of the University of Nairobi, OG anatomy walks students through core gross anatomy content by anatomical regions. Divided into subsets such as Neuro Anatomy and Upper Limb & Back, Dr. Ogeng’o covers all the basics of topographical anatomy. Diagrams are supplemented with interactive cadaver photos from which further details may be gleaned. This site is intended to complement undergraduate study.

Medical students require strong stomachs, and so do these helpful cadaver dissection videos. Originally created for anatomy students at the University of Wisconsin, the videos teach human anatomy by focusing on particular regions and sub-regions. Videos range from 9 to 36 minutes and cover a wide range of gross anatomy from cranial contents to the gastrointestinal tract. The videos are played either in Flash or QuickTime.

At Instant Anatomy, students find free anatomical illustrations by major body regions including head & neck, thorax, abdomen, arm and leg. Some podcasts and lectures are also free on topics ranging from parasympathetic pathways in the head to arteries, veins & lymphatics in the upper limb. A number of useful questions to aid with memorization are also provided free of charge. Additionally, a variety of lectures, podcasts and apps are available for purchase.


Other Useful Sites

As the creators of this site note, “variability is the law of life.” In the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation, the Hawkeye professors explore the diversity of anatomy of humans through a series of opuses, each covering a major system: cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, muscular and skeletal. Students can explore the range of anomaly and variation for all major parts of the body. Each piece of anatomy covered has a number of illustrations as well as a full text treatment of its range of variation.

The Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy was designed to supplement, but not replace, traditional textbooks. Covering the structure of organs, tissues and cells, this atlas is an excellent resource for students of histology. The site is divided into 17 sections ranging from everything from the central nervous system to cells. A series of helpful appendices are included, such as How to Study a Microscopic Slide.

With such a variety of free online resources, it has never been easier to study human anatomy. Using the illustrations, descriptions and videos identified in this guide, medical students can now supplement their classroom work and master anatomy without breaking the bank. 

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