Population representation among anatomical donors and the implication for medical student education

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Anatomy | Medical Education | Surgical Procedures, Operative


Dissection provides a unique opportunity to integrate anatomical and clinical education. Commonly, cadavers are randomly assigned to courses, which may result in skewed representation of patient populations. The primary aim of this study was to determine if the anatomical donors studied by students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) accurately represent the disease burden of the local patient population. This cross-sectional study compared the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center patient claims data and body donation data from the UMMS Anatomical Gift Program (AGP). This study examined age, race, sex, and morbidities within a 10-year timeframe in 401,258 patients and 859 anatomical donors who met inclusion criteria. An independent t test was conducted to compare the mean ages of the two populations. Chi square analysis was conducted on race, sex, and 10 morbidity categories. A Fischer's exact test was conducted for two morbidity categories with n < 10. Demographic analysis showed a significant difference in age, and racial representation between the populations. No statistical difference was found regarding sex. Morbidities were separated into 22 ICD-10 categories. Twelve categories were excluded and 10 were analyzed for population comparison. Two categories were over represented and seven were under-represented in the AGP population. One category showed no significant difference between populations. Targeted selection of cadavers in anatomy courses would improve morbidity variability in the anatomy lab. In addition, AGP acceptance guidelines should be evaluated to increase disease variation among the donor population.


anatomical donation, anatomy, dissection, medical student education, population study

DOI of Published Version



Clin Anat. 2017 Nov 11. doi: 10.1002/ca.23013. [Epub ahead of print] Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Clinical anatomy (New York, N.Y.)

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID