Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 417–430 | Cite as

Cutting Deep: The Transformative Power of Art in the Anatomy Lab

  • Katie GroganEmail author
  • Laura Ferguson


On Tuesday evenings at New York University School of Medicine (NYUSoM), the anatomy lab is transformed into an art studio. Medical students gather with a spirit of creative enterprise and a unique goal: to turn anatomy into art. They are participants in Art & Anatomy, an innovative drawing course within the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine (MSPHM)—a component of NYUSoM, which offers elective courses across a range of interdisciplinary topics in medical humanities. Art & Anatomy has had approximately four hundred fifty participants since its inception in 2009. The educational intention of the course is to use drawing as an active mode of learning that enhances visual-perceptual ability and three-dimensional (3D) spatial understanding of the body's interior; however, the course also opens a creative space for participants to process the emotional complexities of cadaver dissection and the anatomy lab experience. The anatomy lab can be the training ground for clinical detachment, but many U.S. medical schools are beginning to attend more closely to the emotional aspects of dissection. The authors maintain that the inherently expressive nature of drawing makes the Art & Anatomy course a novel and effective approach to this endeavor. Select student artwork and a curriculum overview are provided.


Anatomy Anatomy lab Art Cadaver dissection Drawing Medical education 



The authors thank Tamara Prevatt and Sunnie We for their assistance with this manuscript; the Art & Anatomy students for sharing their artwork and comments; the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine; the staff of the Anatomy Lab; and the body donors from whom we are privileged to learn.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Master Scholars Program in Humanistic MedicineNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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