What College A&P Falls Short for Medical Education

What College A&P Falls Short for Medical Education

One of the courses in premedical curriculum that is often “claimed” as the MOST relevant – yet “surprisingly” not required – is a course in human anatomy and physiology. If you are planning to become a pharmacist, physical therapist, or physician assistant, many schools require that you have taken a course or two in human anatomy and physiology.

But, if you are planning to become a DOCTOR, you don’t have to take it! In fact, all you really NEED (based on AMCAS) is just 1 year of biology. Of course, individual schools like Johns Hopkins may have additional requirements like Biochemistry (growing popular nowadays), but even when combining that, no undergraduate requires a course in anatomy and physiology though it will help when anatomy dreadfully rolls around in medical school.

So, what’s the catch? What is college A&P falling short for medical education?

Study materials for college, Periodic Table, Anatomy Physiology, pre-med, books, paper, homework, assignments, learning, lights, oranges, Wedgwood, Seattle, Washington, USA
Image is credited to Wonderlane.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the way A&P are taught, but looking at Netter’s Anatomy of heart and a typical heart image that comes up in introductory textbooks, it is not hard to see the level of details that medical education stresses that A&P in undergraduate do not contain.

But, to assert that the details are the ONLY reason that A&P is not required would be absurd. The real difference – and the reason why you can be an expert in Anatomy and still not be a “Medical Doctor” – is the clinical relevance.

Let me put it this way. Undergraduate education is about exploring the big picture. You discuss how the heart works, how it’s related to other organs, and its physical mechanisms from electrophysiology or molecular biology perspective (interestingly, most anatomy and physiology textbooks have first few chapters dedicated for basic cell biology and chemistry as well). For medical school, however, the focus isn’t really about just how the heart works – it’s about understanding its function from clinical perspective. For instance, left anterior descending artery’s blockage can cause coronary artery occlusion. Such details aren’t really needed for undergraduate, but for clinician-to-be, it is (esp for USMLE).

So, coming back to the topic, basic introductory biology course that covers anatomy and physiology can give enough “preview” for medical education so the full course is not required. The focus is already different in undergraduate setting anyway, so while having taken the course may help, it will not be a problem if you didn’t – because just like Biochemistry, the courses that medical education emphasizes is about clinical relevance, and that’s not something colleges will be about.

What do you think?

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