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Human Anatomy Lesson 0

Robert is an anatomy professor at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.


Course in Human Anatomy

Welcome to this course in Human Anatomy. This is an actual undergraduate course that is taught at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL, where I am an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. At Benedictine, we have three majors - B.A. Biology, B.S. Biology, and B.S. Health Science - that prepare students for careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, ultrasonography, and other health science careers. We are very successful at sending students to medical, professional, and graduate schools such as Midwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, and elsewhere. If you want to read more about Benedictine University, you can visit our website here. I created this page for two purposes. First, if you are an undergraduate student in my class, this page serves as the gateway to my lecture notes, which are presented as 27 "lessons" that roughly correspond to lecture periods. You can benefit from this page and these lessons even if you are not a student in my course. Each of the lessons that you can access from this page is self-contained in the sense that it covers a different topic or region of the body, and it has its own learning objectives and content. The lessons also build on each other, and anybody who completes all 27 lessons will know quite a lot about human anatomy! Feel free to participate in these lenses in any manner you want - take quizzes, go from start to finish or just sample one or two lessons, leave comments and feel free to ask questions or send me an e-mail. You can find all the information you'll need about how to use these lessons below.

Organization of the Course

Human anatomy in this course is taught from a regional perspective - that is, I go over each region of the body, covering all the muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, lymphatics, functions, and - in some cases - development, of each region in turn. Anatomy is often taught this way in gross anatomy courses where the body is dissected and in undergraduate human anatomy courses such as this one where anatomy is taught separately from physiology. At Benedictine, the human anatomy course is taught in conjunction with a cadaver lab where undergraduate students identify anatomical structures on two cadaver prosections (previously-dissected cadavers). The other approach to teaching human anatomy is from a systemic perspective, where the body is split into systems - skeletal, integumentary, muscular, cardiovascular or circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital - and all the components associated with each system are traced throughout the body. An undergraduate course in human anatomy can be taught in this fashion, although it will generally cover less detail than is possible in a course taught from a regional perspective (in such a course, for example, the entire muscular system - all the muscles in the body - needs to be taught in two weeks-or-so!). It is more common to follow a systemic approach when teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology, a one- or two-semester course that combines anatomy and physiology.

This course is split into four parts that cover different regions of the body. The order in which I teach these sections differs from semester to semester, so the order below is different from the order we are using in class this semester:

  1. Part 1: introductory information (anatomical terminology, body systems, skeleton, medical imaging techniques), spine, characteristics of the nervous system, and back.
  2. Part 2: thorax, abdomen, pelvis and perineum.
  3. Part 3: head and neck.
  4. Part 4: upper and lower limbs.

Part 1 - Terminology, Spine, Nervous System, Back

  • Lesson 1
    Anatomical Terminology, Orientation, Movement
  • Lesson 2
    Medical Imaging, Systems, Bones
  • Lesson 3
    Vertebrae, Joints, Ligaments
  • Lesson 4
    Spinal Cord, Spinal Nerves, Somatic Nervous System
  • Lesson 5
    Autonomic Nervous System
  • Lesson 6
    Muscles of the Back

Part 2 - Thorax, Abdomen, Pelvis and Perineum

Part 3 - Head, Neck

Part 4 - Upper and Lower Limbs


As noted above, this course is taught from a regional perspective. At Benedictine, I teach this course using Gray's Basic Anatomy 2e or Gray's Anatomy for Students depending on semester, but you could really follow along using any of the regionally-organized textbooks below. You can see my reviews of these textbooks here

Lab Workbook

The other component of my Human Anatomy course is the cadaver lab, where students identify anatomical structures on cadavers, models, charts, skeletons, and bones. It is really difficult to replicate this very important component of the course online. The following workbooks and atlases have proven useful in lab and provide a good complement to the course:

Other Resources

Here are a few other resources that my students find useful. Thieme's Atlas of Anatomy is a recommended book for my fall 2020 course at Benedictine University.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Robert McCarthy


Anonymous on September 17, 2016:

I find your lessons extremely helpful. My siblings are in medical school and they find your lectures very useful as well. Can you post practice quizzes?