Medical Science Educator

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 525–532 | Cite as

Anatomic Body Painting as a Teaching Tool in Physician Assistant Education

  • Cynthia C. BennettEmail author
Original Research



Anatomic body painting (ABP) is a teaching tool utilized in many countries but not well known in the USA. Minimal research exists on ABP’s efficacy as a teaching tool. The high cost of anatomy labs, limited cadaver availability, and short timeline of physician assistant (PA) curricula make ABP an attractive resource for PA programs. Elon University has used ABP as an adjunct teaching tool in its PA anatomy curriculum since matriculation of its first class in 2013.


This paper describes how and why ABP was incorporated into Elon’s PA anatomy curriculum, details adaptations made for incorporation into an American anatomy curriculum and offers an assessment of student acceptability of ABP as a teaching method at a US Physician Assistant program.


Literature search was performed assessing use of ABP at other programs. A survey comparing student perceptions of ABP to cadaveric dissection was completed by participants in two (n = 29; n = 32) ABP sessions.


Key features of Elon’s ABP method and rationale for their inclusion are described. Cost for starting Elon’s ABP program was approximately $421.00. Student perceptions of ABP compared favorably to cadaveric dissection in perceived effectiveness, acceptance, and usefulness in understanding clinical correlations. Data suggest that ABP may make participants less uncomfortable physically and/or psychologically than cadaveric dissection.


ABP is an affordable adjunct to anatomy instruction that is well accepted by students and assists in understanding clinical concepts/correlations. The study is limited by small size and inclusion of one study center; further study is warranted.


Anatomic body painting Anatomy Physician assistant Education Curriculum 



The musculoskeletal body painting session described herein was funded by a grant from Elon University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Elon University Institutional Review Board approved this study of students participating in ABP as part of the didactic year anatomy curriculum (IRB Protocol No. 14-108). Informed consent was obtained from study participants by a faculty member not involved with the study.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physician Assistant StudiesElon UniversityElonUSA

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