Anatomical Competencies

Educators are facing a challenging reality: while there is renewed focus on the use of outcome- or competency-based education in undergraduate medical education, there has also been a significant decline in curricular hours available for the anatomical sciences.

Setting the Objectives

In 1997, when it became clear that recommendations of curricular objectives in anatomy were needed, a working group of the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Chairpersons (AACBNC) produced just such a report. Then an Anatomical Curriculum Task Force was formed, consisting of an international representation of AAA members, to review the report and provide updated recommendations for modern medical curricula based on its findings.

Teams focused on identifying clinically-relevant material in Embryology, Gross Anatomy, Histology, and Neuroscience to be taught during the preclinical phase of medical training that is relevant to all practicing physicians. (If a particular topic wasn’t listed, it did not indicate that it lacked importance; rather, the task force deemed some topics more appropriate for the clinical phase of training, for example, once a learner has decided on his/her career path.) Once curricular objectives were drafted, the objectives were widely vetted.


The recommendations in the final report are listed in the format of objectives that can be utilized as written or modified and adapted for a particular institution’s curriculum. We hope that this will become a “living document” that will be periodically reviewed and updated by the Educational Affairs Committee.

Chairs, Anatomical Curriculum Task Force
Mary Bee, University of Detroit Mercy
Virginia Lyons, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Download the Competencies

Access any of the competencies – Gross Anatomy, Embryology, Histology, or Neuroanatomy – in your preferred format of PDF or XLSX.

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