You will spend about 2-6 hours per week in gross anatomy lab for much of the year. Each week you will have 1-2 dissections that are 2-3 hours long each. You will work in a team of five students and you will switch groups halfway through the academic year. Each team member has a unique role, which rotates each week. There are two lead dissectors each week, 2 assistant dissectors, and 1 computer (iPad) operator. Some teams choose to rotate roles weekly with the schedule or to just pick a role that feels natural each time and rotate as needed. The key is to decide on a strategy that works for your team.
The goal is not to get out of lab as fast as you can. You really want to take your time with the dissections. This includes working through the learning objectives and discussing each structure of interest. For example, when dissecting a muscle, your team should not only identify the muscle, but also consider that structure's innervation, function, and any clinical presentations that may involve that muscle. This will help prepare you for your anatomy exams. During lab, the gross anatomy faculty will circulate among the tables to help with dissections and answer questions. They are your best resource! Be prepared to answer questions about the structures you are uncovering.
There are 1-2 lectures each week about gross anatomy. These lectures are designed to orient you to the structures of interest and to prepare you for that week's dissection. There are also very good notes from the professors accompanying most of these lectures. These are an excellent resource both for preparing for your dissection and for preparing for the exam. Most students purchase a copy of Grant's Dissector. This book gives step-by-step instructions for each dissection. It is a good idea to read over this before coming to lab, or to look over some kind of dissector before the lab.
You will have an iPad with various note-taking software installed on it at your dissection table. Some groups like to take photos or videos of their dissection and upload these to VStar for class use. It is very important you upload these to VStar to protect privacy of our silent teaching partners and their families. You can also see the videos and photos posted by other groups. This is great for studying anatomy in various cadavers from home.
Many students like to return to the anatomy lab outside of class to identify structures in their classmate's cadavers (as well as in their own). This is a great strategy for exam preparation! You will have to do this as part of your anatomy practical exam, so be sure to look at your classmate's dissections. Familiarize yourself with what the "common" anatomy looks like using atlases of anatomy. Take note of the questions the gross anatomy faculty asks as they assist with your dissections! These are usually important concepts that may be tested on the exam.
Most of all, enjoy gross anatomy and give it your all! Be respectful of your silent teaching partner and of the lab itself. Always clean your table, tools, and iPad. Remember to keep moist towels over exposed structures and to cover the portion of the body you are not working on directly. Anatomy is not always the easiest subject, but consistent effort will help you learn and appreciate the many structures you will uncover.