Läkarstudenten Sara Ebadi poserar vid anatomisk modell i plast.
In just a few months, Sara Ebadi will graduate as a doctor.
Photo: Elin Lindström

Donated bodies allow medical students to learn about anatomical structures


Sara Ebadi is a medical student who assists in teaching anatomy. She dissects human bodies that have been donated to the University to demonstrate to small groups of medical students how organs and structures in the body are connected. This provides knowledge that cannot be gained in any other way.

Sara Ebadi has only one semester left before graduating from her medical studies at the University of Gothenburg. She also works as a teaching assistant in anatomy, helping to teach other students the structure of the body. Images and different models of the body are used to teach anatomy and lessons also include dissection of deceased individuals who have chosen to donate their bodies to the University’s medical school.

Safe and respectful

When medical students come to the anatomy lab for dissection, it is often the first time they have encountered a deceased person. It was like that for Sara, too. She remembers what it was like when she was present at her first dissection three years ago:

“I was a bit nervous before we entered the lab, because I didn’t know how I would react. But it felt very safe and respectful. Seeing what the human body really looks like was a groundbreaking experience. I had several ‘aha’ moments about anatomy with things that I hadn’t understood from the images and models of the body that we had studied earlier.”

Great respect

Students are well prepared before participating in their first dissection, having used different plastic models and other visualizations of the body in class. After the dissection, the teaching is followed up with discussions led by the doctors and professors responsible for the course.

To create a neutral distance in the teaching situation, the bodies are referred to as “preparations” during anatomy lessons.

Sara Ebadi
Sara Ebadi
Photo: Elin Lindström

“We are all well aware that the preparations have been living individuals, and when I remind the students of this before we start a dissection, everyone tends to nod in agreement,” says Sara, adding that all are very grateful to those who have chosen to donate their bodies. “By allowing us to study their bodies, they help us to become better doctors and improve the care we provide. We are very grateful.”

A small group of medical students attend each dissection while Sara, or one of the other teaching assistants, reveals organs and structures, calmly and methodically. Bodies for dissection are completely anonymized, and during the lesson students learn about changes brought about by disease and age.

A future surgeon

Seeing the changes in the faces of the other medical students when they discover new insights into how the human body is structured is great fun, says Sara. In addition to the teaching being stimulating, her work as a teaching assistant allows her to earn credits that she can use when she applies for specialist positions after becoming a fully qualified doctor.

“My goal is to eventually become a surgeon. Surgery is a popular choice that attracts many doctors, but few are selected. Participating in teaching anatomy gives me a deeper level of knowledge that will take me a step closer to my dream.”