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On October 24, 2023, the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics (DPAG) hosted an inspiring 'World Anatomy Day' event at the Natural History Museum.

a seminar takes place in a room

This event, themed 'The Art of Anatomy: Explore, Create, Connect,' brought together a diverse group of participants, from sixth form students aspiring to join medical school to seasoned researchers and medical students. DPAG's Outreach and Public Engagement Working Group (OPEWG) played a pivotal role in making this event a resounding success, supported by dedicated volunteers, including research scientists, clinical anatomy teaching staff, and undergraduate medical science students.

For one of the more popular activities, students received a short lecture from Samuel Snowdon on facial expressions and the unconscious/conscious mechanisms behind them as well as examples of muscles used in facial expression. Then, they were given the opportunity to sculpt their own muscles and place them on plastic skulls.

Below you can see several examples of the amazing contributions attendees brought to this activity. These are Examples of reconstructed faces that attendees sculpted when learning about muscles involved in facial expression in session one.

skull sculptures

Through a series of short talks given from student volunteers who are studying medicine, attendees were able to learn the anatomy of the heart, brain, eye, ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.

“Very interesting and interactive. I really liked the rotating short anatomy talks. Thank you!”

Below, and main image, Julian, Ayush and Molly were a few of our medical students who helped to deliver bitesize anatomy talks for attendees in session two. 

world anatomy day seminarworld anatomy day event

To highlight some of the technological innovations that are being used in teaching and learning, attendees were able to try out some of the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality applications which allowed them to become immersed in a new reality and learning anatomy in a completely new perspective.

“It was great. I really liked the engagement activities… The VR riddles were also very fun…”

Attendees were then finally able to look at the anatomy of the forearm to understand the control of the wrist and hand. To do this, they explored their surface anatomy to identify muscles, tendons, nerves, and arteries before then using food colouring to draw these out on each other. This involved using sense of touch to help construct a deeper understanding of anatomy.

On the importance of engagement events like this, Benjamin Chapman, a current researcher in the department studying for a DPhil said, “The session at the Natural History Museum was great. It was especially nice to meet so many students interested in anatomy asking some brilliant questions. I am sure the rest of the volunteers would agree that engaging with events like this remind us of how fascinating working in anatomy and medicine can be.”

Amber Foley added “It was a great experience to be a part of and to see the participants really enjoy engaging with anatomy for the first time, as well as picking up handy tips and advice from Oxford medics. The activities seemed to really engage participants and all around - a fun day was had!”

Sam, who was leading the event, noted that “It was great to be able to host the first event for World Anatomy Day on behalf of DPAG. The wide range of activities we ran helped to promote anatomy, as well as attracting young scientists into the field of anatomy and medicine. I would like to extend my gratitude and thanks to all members of staff and students who came together and worked tirelessly to make this a success and I look forward to running similar events in future.”

Some more examples of feedback we received from attendees include:

“It was a very fun experience with lots of different practical activities which is different in a good way as well as talking to fellow medical students in Oxford which was helpful as they provided useful advice for application etc.”

“Great sessions. Brilliant way to split the group and have various stations focused on a specific subject. Staff very helpful. Thank you.”

“Fun lesson on anatomy and learnt a lot! thank you.”

“It was honestly really interesting. I think I learnt a lot and I would 100% do it again”.