Anatomy by Whole Body Dissection Course (AWBD)



Course accredited by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons for surgical trainees

This course is accredited by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons for surgical trainees.


(Course dates: Monday 5 January 2015 to Friday 27 February 2015)



FUTURE STUDENTS - Online applications will open on this site on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 3pm.

APPLICATION FORM 2015 - OPEN FROM 3PM, APRIL 29th 2014 (Don't panic if it doesn't appear at exactly 3pm by your watch, give it up to 5 minutes)

NOTE : 30 applicants interviewed for 24 places
DEMONSTRATORS - Online applications will open on this site on April 29th at 3pm.


NOTE : Applications for Demonstrators will only be accepted from candidates already on an SET program

For the “AWBD2015 Course” because of the current restricted facilities in the Anderson Stuart Building, student enrolments will again be limited to 24 places. Applications online must include:

  1. Name and contacts of a Clinical School mentor who has agreed to referee your application.
  2. If you are an Honours student, you will need to provide written permission from your Supervisor/Sub Deans by completing the 'Elective While Doing a Research Project' form (refer to the Honours website) and agreeing that you will be available for the full course including the post course assessment.
  3. You will be required to present for an interview before being accepted.

This is a full time course restricted to Medicine 4, University of Sydney students, in their Elective Term before the commencement of their Final Year. The course has been extended to 8 weeks duration and now complies fully with all of the requirements of the Elective Term

Class of 2014

Acceptance of applications to interview from eligible students is on a "first come first served" basis. The course has been conducted in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The AWBD2015 Course will run from Monday 5th January 2015 to Friday 27th February 2015. The dissection schedule for the 34 dissection days of the course is attached for further reference below as a PDF document for printing. Successful completion of the course now fulfils all the requirements for the elective term. There is no cost for this course.

Prior to acceptance for the course Students must agree to attend the Pre-course Test on Monday 5 January 2015 and the Post-Course Test, which will be held during Conference Week, on Tuesday 29 September 2015.

Class of 2012

Course introduction

The Anatomy by Whole Body Dissection Course focuses on practical dissection skills for the development of topographical surgical anatomical knowledge. Students with aspirations to surgery and other procedural specialties have found this an invaluable elective and others have indicated that the course was also valuable for many other aspects of Medicine.

A key advantage of the course is the proximate availability of surgeons and proceduralists (of various specialties) acting as Supervisors, together with surgical trainees, acting as Demonstrators, who provide contextual references to and clinical relevance of the dissection tasks.

Class of 2011

2015 Dissection Schedule

The dissection schedule below is to be used by students as the primary resource for timetable information and can be printed off for the course.

Schedule (PDF - 110KB)

Student outcomes

Student assessments have revealed a marked increase in the topographical anatomical knowledge of the course participants at the end of the course and this appears to be sustained at the Post-course test. The feedback from students regarding personal outcomes from completing the course has been overwhelmingly positive. Students were asked in an anonymous survey what they had derived from the course. The following is a sample of what they had to say in their own words.

“Dissection allows the development of a three dimensional mind map of the different anatomical regions of the body”

"Full body dissection gives a comprehensive whole of body view of anatomical regions. Supervising surgeons and demonstrators were invaluable for teaching"

"Course was well organised and small groups enhanced learning"

"Feel much more comfortable with the structure and feel of body tissues i.e. tactile gnosis"

"Great way to learn anatomy, feel like I will always keep the knowledge gained here"

Class of 2010

Supervisors and Demonstrators

Senior surgeons (of various specialties), anaesthetists and gynaecologists attend dissecting sessions as Supervisors, especially when their area of expertise is being dissected. Members of the Discipline of Anatomy and Histology also act as supervisors.

Senior Surgical Trainees (seconded from various teaching hospitals) act as anatomy demonstrators during the course. AWBD2015 applications for Demonstratorships will only be accepted from trainees already on an SET program. A Whole Body Dissection experience is now available for non-SET trainees through the University of Sydney Master of Surgery program. Individuals appointed as Demonstrators are to be present for all or part of the course depending on their availability. The minimum period that a Demonstrator can be present is 5 continuous dissecting days.

Attendance in the course by a Demonstrator should consolidate their topographical anatomical knowledge and enhance the anatomy component of their surgical training.

All Demonstrators and Supervisors take part in this course in a "pro bono" capacity.

Class of 2009


  • Dissection follows the traditional methods and directions as outlined in Cunningham’s Dissecting Manuals, Volumes 1 to 3, 15th Ed, GJ Romanes, Oxford.
  • A good anatomical Atlas (e.g. Grant’s Atlas) is essential.
  • Many students have found reading Last’s Anatomy, Regional and Applied, 9th Edition, Editor CV McMinn, Churchill Livingstone, useful. This is the text used by the surgical trainees and recommended by the RACS.


  • Students are divided alphabetically into groups. Each group is assigned to a cadaver and dissection table with instruments. The Dissection Schedule (which is set up in spreadsheet format) sets out the amount of dissection to be carried out for each day of the course (working from Cunningham’s Manuals). A set amount of pre-reading of the text of the dissection manual is also scheduled for each day’s dissection and must be completed the night before the dissection is undertaken.
  • The actual dissection instructions have been transcribed from the manuals onto colour-coded and numbered A4 laminated cards prior to the course commencing. These are re-usable and are a very convenient source of easily readable directions while actually dissecting.
  • All diagrams and figures from the three volumes of Cunningham’s Manuals have been scanned into digital form prior to the course commencing. These are projected onto large flat screens around the dissecting room, so that students from each table can select appropriately suitable images to coincide with their current dissection.
  • Didactic teaching is kept to a minimum in the dissecting room to allow students to get on with the dissecting process. However, Demonstrators and Supervisors circulate continuously - advising, explaining, answering queries and when necessary giving mini-tutorials.
  • Each morning at 9 am, in the Wilson Museum, the briefing for the day’s dissection is given by an allocated student with visuals from the dissecting manuals. All students are expected to be present at each briefing and a roll is called.
  • Each day at 1 pm a short lecture is given in the Wilson Museum, usually by a Supervisor, on the clinical aspects of the current dissection.
  • At the completion of dissection of each region of the body, an individual “spot test” is carried out at 3 pm on the day that region is completed.
  • At 3 pm on other days of dissection, groups are assessed by “scorpio” type assessments.


All students are formally assessed four times by a Pre-course, a Mid-course, an End-of-course and a Post course examination. These assessments take the form of a written practical examination at which students are asked to accurately identify and correctly name 20, tagged anatomical structures on 4 wet specimens. A Certificate of Attainment is awarded to each student verifying the standard of anatomical knowledge achieved at the end of the course. The Post-course examination will be held during Conference Week on Tuesday 29 September 2015. Attendance at this assessment is mandatory to successful completion of the course.

Laycock Prosectors Prize

At the end of the course, students can apply to be selected to carry out a prosection, which is submitted for the John and Lillian Laycock Memorial and J.L. Shellshear Memorial prizes. These prosections are carried out in the two weeks following the end of the dissection course. The prosectors personally present their prosections (with an emphasis on clinical relevance) to the judging panel (3 academics and 3 surgeons). A winner and runner-up are selected and the details given to the Head of Discipline for further processing regarding prizes.

More information


  1. Ramsey-Stewart G, Burgess AW, Hill DA, Back to the future - teaching anatomy by whole body dissection, MJA 2010, Volume 193, Number 11/12, 668-671.
  2. Ramsey-Stewart G, May J, Contemporary teaching of anatomy is Australian Medical Schools : are we doing enough? Letters to the Editor ANZ J Surg, 2012, 82:88-9
  3. Burgess AW, Ramsey Stewart G, May, J et al. Team based learning methods in teaching topographical anatomy by dissection ANZ J Surg 2012 S2, 82: 457-460.
  4. Ramsey-Stewart G, Ramsey-Stewart E, Surgical Anatomy of the Peritoneum, 2012, RSID Sydney. (See:

If you have any enquires (beyond what is already answered on this page), please contact the course coordinator Professor George Ramsey-Stewart.

George Ramsey-Stewart
Professor of Surgical Anatomy
Room S233, Anderson Stuart building - F13
+61 2 9351 5161 - Phone