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Notre Dame graduate doctor recognised for outstanding research on Anatomy education


Dr John Farey, a graduate from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Medicine, Sydney, has received a major award from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons for his research into anatomy education for medicine students.

The research looked at which factors predicted satisfaction with anatomy knowledge, and confidence to apply that knowledge after graduation as junior doctors and trainee specialists. The paper was one of 14 presented at the Annual Scientific Congress, in Brisbane on 4 May 2016, winning the award for best scientific presentation in the Surgical Education Stream.

Dr Farey, completed his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) in 2015, and is undertaking his internship and residency at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

“There is an ongoing debate on the status of anatomy in contemporary medical education,” Dr Farey said. “We were looking at the question of whether medicine student graduated with enough anatomy knowledge to practice effectively.”

The study explored 17 teaching methods overall from dissection to the role of computer based programs to ascertain which methods gave students the greatest confidence in applying their anatomy knowledge.

The research found that traditional teaching methods, such as dissection, were still valued by medical students, perhaps more than some contemporary teaching methods such as computer-based learning.

A significant proportion of current medical students were significantly dissatisfied with their anatomy knowledge, the survey found.

Dr Farey said the findings were of national and international significance, with implications for the way anatomy is taught. “Ideally, a mixture of modern and traditional teaching methods will bring out the best results,” he said.

Dr Farey said the research was stimulated by questioning the commonly held view that medical graduates today know less anatomy than 20 years ago.

“There has been a drop in the amount of anatomy being taught from around 500 hours over the course of a medical degree 30 years ago, to 150-170 hours in contemporary courses,” Dr Farey said. “With medicine courses increasingly heading to a four year post graduate model, there is a potential for the total Anatomy teaching hours to further decline.”

The paper, a collaborative effort by colleagues Dr David Bui from UNSW, Dr David Townsend from the University of New England and Molly Gilfillan from the University of Western Australia, was the result of a social media survey from August 2015.

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