YouTube is amazing for learning anatomy. Not only is it free but it’s fun too. As long as you know where to look.
To save you time, I’ve rounded up six great beginner anatomy playlists. Each of these delivers the basics in plain English and is guaranteed not to waste your time. I’ll dive into each in more detail later.
- Sam Webster
- The Noted Anatomist
- Crash Course Anatomy & Physiology
- Khan Academy Medicine: Human Anatomy & Physiology
- Dr John Campbell
Note: I’ve also ranked these in order of personal preference. Having used each channel myself on my road through med school (and passing anatomy), I’ll explain what went into the decision process.
I’m purposefully excluding dissection-based videos for a reason. Starting out in anatomy for the first time, I don’t consider them essential. But if you’re interested in my opinion on them (and their role in med school) you can go here.
Let’s get to the channels.
Who is Sam Webster?
Sam Webster is a human anatomy lecturer at Swansea University Medical School in South Wales, UK (not too far from home – perhaps that’s why I love him so much!)
His YouTube channel, of the same name, is always the first recommendation I have for any students asking me about anatomy. I first started following him a couple of years back when I was doing my own anatomy exams (he had only a couple thousand subscribers back then). But I knew it was only a matter of time before he would blow up (he now has 170K plus subscribers).
His anatomy playlist has well over 200 tutorial videos.
Why Sam Webster Is Great for Anatomy Beginners
The thing about Sam is that he has a knack for simple explanations. Watch him explain mesenteries with clingfilm for example, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. He’s also a YouTube regular, with new uploads every week.
Another great thing about his channel (aside from his weekly personal vlogs – where he’ll often draw his hobbies back to his anatomy teaching) is his access to top of the range anatomical figures and 3D models. Watching Sam play with these (if you’ll excuse all the clattering and clanging), makes you better able to visualize the spatial arrangements of structures in the body. Something you just don’t get from 3D software.
Sam is all about useful mnemonics too. Who could forget his very memorable one for the autonomic nervous functions aiding the male genitalia?
You’ll have to dig through his vids to find that one!
Who Is The Noted Anatomist?
The Noted Anatomist is Dr. David Morton, Anatomy Professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, US.
According to his web bio he got a C- in his first anatomy class in high school. Don’t worry he’s improved a lot since then!
His channel, nicely divided into individual video playlists for key anatomy topics, has over 120K subscribers. He uploads roughly once a month.
Why The Noted Anatomist Is Great for Anatomy Beginners
Like Sam Webster, The Noted Anatomist is a generalists channel to anatomy – not just medical students. Because of that he is careful to keep things plain and simple, while not bogging down his viewer with extra detail. Each video starts out with a key couple of questions he wants the viewer to think about.
What’s nice about the channel is Dr Morton’s tone, delivery and pacing. The illustrations and diagrams that run alongside his commentary are very engaging. Also meaning you’re unlikely to switch off.
Another great feature that makes it good for beginners is the way he breaks down to terminology and makes it less daunting. Just watch his video on divisions of the brain for example. There he explains gyri and sulci as “hills” and “valleys” – making it much easier to visualise and remember.
What is Crash Course A&P?
Crash Course is a YouTube series made by Hank Green, it covers lots of different subjects (not just anatomy). What’s cool about it are the amazing graphics (seriously the team they hired did a superb job) as well as Hank’s zany run throughs on complicated topics.
This anatomy and physiology playlist is 44 videos long. Judging by the huge amount of traffic this series gets though, you’ll know it’s a good one.
The whole ethos of Crash Course is to be quick while covering all the major essentials. The average video length is about 10 minutes. Perfect for cramming.
Why Crash Course Is Great For Anatomy Beginners
Crash Course is great because it can serve as a fun and fast overview of the subject before you dive deeper into anatomy. You can watch these videos kicking back on a tablet or a phone or whatever and just take it all in.
It’s actually impressive just how factual each short video can be. I also like the way Hank draws various analogies to the complicated science to compare it to wacky things. A refreshing approach.
Who Are AnatomyZone?
AnatomyZone is run by two UK-based doctors, Peter de Souza and Jack Hurley. The channel (and site) has been running since 2011.
This channel differentiates itself from others in it’s use of 3D imaging software. Watch the tutorials and you’ll see how Jack and Peter remove structures in an easy to see way. Without the interference of a messy dissection.
The channel itself is divided into separate playlists focused on different anatomical regions. Videos are pretty short, usually ranging from 5-10 minutes.
Why is AnatomyZone Great For Anatomy Beginners
The best thing about AnatomyZone is the graphics. The 3D modelling used in the videos – alongside the detailed commentaries – really helps viewers imagine the contours and shapes of major structures as well as better associate their locations.
Another nice touch AnatomyZone has is it’s focus on clinical anatomy. Explaining what certain pathologies look like in terms of organs and structures they effect, makes understanding diseases a lot easier.
What is Khan Academy?
Khan Academy is one of the web’s best known free education sites. It’s medicine related courses were moved from their main site to YouTube. Unlike their other courses, that’s the only place you can access the material for now.
The anatomy and physiology playlist from their medicine content is massive (over 200 videos). Covering all the major organ systems and anatomical regions, there’s enough content here to keep you busy for months.
Why Is Khan Academy Medicine Great For Anatomy Beginners?
Khan Academy is well known for its simple explainers of complicated subjects. Their format, commentary made over blackboard-style drawings, works well too. Each video is clean and doesn’t distract.
What’s great about it for beginners is that the video content is specifically targeted for someone at that level. Most videos include recaps, or define terms so that you don’t get lost if you’ve jumped into a subject from somewhere else.
I used this and Crash Course both heavily in my year doing A-levels as a prerequisite to studying med. If you’re interested about that you can read about how I got into studying medicine later in life here.
Who is Dr John Campbell?
John Campbell is a retired nurse teacher and emergency room nurse from the UK.
His YouTube channel is one of the oldest on this list, starting way back in 2007. It was originally started to help John teach his healthcare students both in the UK and in places like Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
John has over 750K subscribers. Incredible.
Why Is Dr John Campbell Great For Anatomy Beginners?
Dr John’s videos are a little different as they were originally aimed at nurses and other healthcare professionals (not medical students). He doesn’t use any flashy graphics, animations or other bells and whistles. His teaching is more old-school style; traditional classroom-based explanations using lots of real-life 3D models and drawings.
John’s delivery is actually very similar to Sam Webster’s. Both are British, both speak clearly and both organise their videos very systemically and in ways that newcomers to anatomy will feel very comfortable. I also discovered his videos around the same time as Sam’s too!
Learning anatomy is hard. Choosing great resources however can make it easier. Each of these channels above fit that category.
For extra tips – especially if you’re a med student looking to level up in anatomy – check out my article on the 5 best anatomy websites for medical students. There are lots of good beginner-friendly tutorials there also.
Good luck and have fun learning anatomy.
Image Source: @ninoliverani at Unsplash