First year medical students' attitude toward anatomical corpse dissection and its relationship with their personality.
The gross anatomy dissection course is a cost-intensive piece of undergraduate medical education that students and professionals alike describe as very important within the overall medical curriculum. We sought to understand more explicitly students' valuation of gross anatomy as an "important" course and so developed a quantitative longitudinal questionnaire. Medical students (n = 124) enrolled in the winter term 2006/2007 gross anatomy course at the Ulm University Faculty of Medicine were surveyed anonymously prior to, in the middle of, and at the end of the dissection course. Subgroups of students expressing rising or falling opinions of course value were identified and correlated with student opinions about the course's ability to convey professional competencies. Five-point Likert scales were used for each survey item, which included such standardized instruments as the NeoFFI, BSI, and FBM. The study confirmed that medical students believe dissection to be valuable. Students indicated that participation in the course facilitated acquisition of anatomy knowledge as well as skills related to teamwork, coping with stress, and, to a lesser extent, time management. Students also noted that they developed less empathy than expected beforehand. Significant subgroup differences were observed relative to the competencies of teamwork, stress coping strategies, and empathy, as well as in students' stress levels associated with having to take a dissection course. Our study builds on previous work that has shown dissection courses help students develop professional competencies. The increase in professionalism might be a reason for the generally high value students place on the gross anatomy dissection course.