The best anatomy websites for medical students are often hidden gems piled under larger paid-for platforms. Searching around for them takes time. Time that you most probably don’t have!
Having faced the challenge of mastering anatomy myself in med school, I know what it’s like when it comes to hunting around for good resources. That’s why I’ve put together this list. A list that only includes sites personally used by myself or recommended to me by colleagues.
You won’t find any paid ad placements here. Only the good, free-to-use stuff that you can access quickly.
Ready to get started?
What Makes A Great Anatomy Website for a Medical Student?
Each of these websites has to fit a certain criteria to earn their place on this list. As far as I see it, this is that criteria; things that help make them a great choice for med students pressed for time:
- Free access: there’s nothing more annoying than searching Google for “free resources” only to find out there’s a trial period that goes with them or a hidden cost that has to be met. Most students don’t have a lot of cash to burn. They also know that anatomy information is available in lots of places and shouldn’t be too much of a commodity.
- No sign-up: almost as annoying as landing on a paid website is landing on a free one that requires some sort of forced sign-up. Med students just don’t have the time for this sort of thing. Nor they do want to get spammed.
- Easy to use: navigation is everything. Each of these sites has search options or categorical organisation that makes retrieving information fast and straightforward. It’s hard to get frustrated using them.
- Nothing to download: you should be able to research and find what you need right on the site. Not download an app or software.
- Clear explanations: aspects of anatomy can be complicated. Understanding it in as clear terms as possible is fundamental to good learning. These sites do a good job of this.
If any site out there doesn’t fit that bill, it’s not on this list.
How Should I Use Anatomy Websites to Study?
Personally, I believe that each of these sites can be used as great primary resources for learning anatomy. To really maximise your time however I recommend synthesizing the information, revisiting it periodically and then practicing it with question banks or quizzes. For more recommendations, see my article how to study medicine more effectively.
Now, let’s go to the sites.
TeachMe Anatomy was one my primary go-to sites when learning anatomy back in the first and second year of med school. It’s still one of my first point of references for looking anything up.
What’s great about the site is that it functions like a Wiki. This means each of its sections is cross-referenced by internal linking with other pages on the site. This makes looking up unfamiliar terms lightning fast. It also means you don’t have to leave the site’s environment (and all the good stuff that comes with that) too.
Each article also gets an aggregated score like a Wiki. You can also see how many revisions a post has and how up to date it is with the current science. This is something books can’t do.
What I like about this site first and foremost is the design. TeachMe Anatomy is so slick. Each page follows a similar formatting style; an introduction to the topic, a description of the structure anatomically with relevant and clear images and finally a clinical relevance section that draws it back to medicine.
Organisation-wise the site is divided into more than ten sections. This includes the usual chaptering of head, thorax, pelvis, abdomen etc. Probably the best section to start with is the basics. Here there are 36 topics broken down into terminology, histology and embryology.
The sidebar also features a few quick MCQ-style questions alongside references to related clinical research.
An almost flawless resource. The only drawback being a paid-for premium tier that gives access to a larger question bank as well as a 3D model.
But then again I consider that overkill and probably unnecessary to successfully learning anatomy.
Innerbody Research is a med-ed site with a vastly underrated anatomy section. Appearing a lot like TeachMe Anatomy in its encyclopaedic-style format, it’s probably not as well designed however.
What’s great about it however is it’s simplicity. You land on the page, pick a system and then get reading. The pages are dense too and cover just about everything. Including all the systems and well as specific diseases relating to them.
A cool feature of the site is the main navigation point on each page/article. Here you can interactively click around the part of the body relevant to each category (here I’m obviously in the skeletal section), then you’ll be taken to the specific information. It’s fast, ad-free and works.
Another nice touch is that each section of the site has been medically reviewed by a doctor. This way you know you’re getting accurate information that’s not been written by a layman. Important when it comes to relying on your knowledge to pass difficult anatomy tests.
Get Body Smart
I’ve mentioned Get Body Smart before on this site, specifically when it comes to its highly recommended systems quizzes.
What I didn’t go into much detail about though was the excellent tutorial side of the site. Another free section that offers a breakdown of all the major systems, functions and components.
Unlike the other sites on this list, Get Body Smart is much less information dense. The sole ethos of this site appears to show rather than tell. That’s why it uses animations to teach rather than long-worded prose full of detailed description.
Using the site is incredible easy. You can use the navigation bar at the top to surf directly to a system. From there you can then dive straight into a short tutorial and start playing around with the images and going back and forth on the buttons.
The site uses ads but they really don’t get in the way of learning. From the tutorials you head right to the quizzes to consolidate your learning. Nothing is hidden behind paid access here.
University of Michigan Medical School
AnatomyZone is a site started by two British doctors that operates as a central hub for 3D illustrative videos on all aspects of anatomy.
Visitors to the site can quickly search for what they want to look up directly after landing on the site. You can also use the categories in the footers to better browse also.
What’s neat about this resource is that each video comes with a scannable text. This means you can watch along and take notes (or make flashcards) directly using the information from the site. The 3D videos are embedded from YouTube.
The videos are delivered in a lecture-style format by the doctors themselves. Each comes with a thorough explanation of what the viewer is seeing while also using precise anatomical terminology (positions, angles etc) to do so. Commentary comes as the structures in each system are dissected, helping to give you a better overview of organs, vessels, muscles and nerves, as well as their positioning.
Occasionally they switch between image modelling too – using atlases and 2D-representations. Useful.
University of Michigan Medical School
Often times individual medical schools deliver free resources so good you wonder how they achieve attracting paying students. University of Michigan Medical School’s Anatomy Department does just that, putting their whole syllabus online free for public use.
What’s so useful about this is that you don’t have to go through a MOOC or any online portal to do this. You can just head straight to the site, dive into a course and get working. Each is structured exactly as the real-life class would progress. They even include the downloadable supplementary materials like lab worksheets and lecture slides too.
You’ll see that that each of the available courses is divided into blocks. You can read my article on medical school curriculums to get a better sense of this type of structuring, but basically (in the example above at least) it means you’ll study anatomy according to physiological importance.
This methodology is possibly what gives this resource an edge of the others. Unlike the top-down approach they provide in the encyclopaedia-style format, UM’s ordering gives greater context to what you’re learning. It also ties it all together so that you know why what you’re learning is important.
A great resource for a self-styled learner looking to learn anatomy to the standard of a US medical school graduate.
Anatomy websites come and go on the web all the time. The sites I’ve recommended above though? Likely to stick around for the long haul.
Each fits the bill of being quick, easy and free to use and learn from.
The perfect supplement to help you get an edge and ace your exams.
Image Credit @moonshadowpress at Unsplash