Bringing anatomy to life: Evaluating a novel ultrasound curriculum in the anatomy laboratory

Rebecca S. Lufler, Department of Medical Education, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Margaret L. Davis, Emergency Medicine Department, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Linda M. Afifi, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Robert F. Willson, Department of Medical Education, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Peter E. Croft, Emergency Medicine Department, Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine, USA.


As point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) invades medical specialties, more students covet earlier ultrasound (US) training programs in medical school. Determining the optimal placement and format in the curriculum remains a challenge. This study uses student perceptions and confidence in interpreting and acquiring images to evaluate the effectiveness of an US curriculum and assesses their performance on US content. A unique US curriculum was incorporated into first-year clinical anatomy at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). Students completed surveys evaluating changes in US confidence and perceptions. Mean ratings on pre- and post-surveys were compared using Mann-Whitney U tests. Performance on US examination questions was evaluated. Two independent evaluators coded narrative responses and NVivo software was used to identify common themes. Two hundred eleven students completed the US curriculum. Students reported higher post-curriculum mean confidence ratings on US comprehension, operation, image acquisition, artifact recognition, and normal image interpretation (P < 0.0001). US reinforced anatomy concepts and clinical correlates (9.56, ±0.97 SD; 9.60, ±1.05). Students disagreed with items stating learning US is too difficult (1.2, ±2.2) and that it interferes with learning anatomy (0.68, ±1.7). Students scored above passing on practical US knowledge questions, supporting survey data, and the relation to learning spatial relationships. Qualitative analysis identified seven major themes and additional subthemes. Limited integration of US breaks barriers in students' perceptions and confidence in performing POCUS. The TUSM US curriculum is a natural marriage of anatomy and POCUS applications, serving as a template for medical schools.