Understand anatomy is a relationship-driven class. The biggest struggle for me to overcome in anatomy was grasping how it differed so much from any class I took in college. Whereas biochemistry, microbiology, and genetics were driven by concepts and pathways, anatomy is based on relationship and positions in space. Successful students understand anatomy is one of the rare classes that exists in three dimensions and gear their studying accordingly.

Engage in group review. With study guides, mnemonics, and other study strategies that I would have never thought of, my classmates played a large role in my understanding of anatomy. Two particularly helpful strategies we used in groups were crowd-sourcing large study guides in Google docs and engaging in questions and answer review sessions.

Come prepared to lab. Anatomy lab can take up to two-four hours two to three time a week, which represents a good-chunk of time you could be studying on your own. Coming prepared to lab with notes, handouts, or practice questions can help you make the most out of these precious hours rather than standing around and waiting for lab to be over.

Experiment with different learning resources. In terms of Anatomy atlases, Netter’s, Thieme’s, and Lipincott’s were the three that provided the best illustrations for studying. Your school’s library should have copies of all three on reserve, and I would recommend experimenting with all three before deciding which one you use as your de-facto atlas. Some other resources that proved useful were the Solid Anatomy series from Doctors in Training, BRS Anatomy for practice questions, and the University of Michigan website for written and practical questions.

Take a break. In the frenzied, constant-studying culture of medical school, it’s easy to forget life exists outside of the walls of the library. Small breaks, whether watching a movie, playing a sport, or even trivia night at your local watering hole, can break up the monotony of studying and refresh your mind. In a seemingly obvious conclusion, a recent study found “high levels of exam anxiety among the medical students, showing that there is a need for anxiety-reduction programmes in medical colleges.” Medical training is a marathon, and there is no point in burning out from sprinting too hard in the beginning.

Do you have any advice for medical students taking gross anatomy?