History of Anatomy in Nigeria and All You Need to Know

The history of anatomy in Nigeria and all you need to know is deeply looked into in this article for your enjoyment. So, while you are entertained with the necessary information, you are also systemically being informed to know more than the ordinary man. Checking out the history of anatomy is obviously a doodle into the far but recent past — a past which is replete with the scientific motivation that gives birth to the course as an essential one to understanding human preservation, death and rebirth of life.

Of course, having some knowledge of the history of anatomy is an act of condoning the intellectual activity which bespeaks the passion to know and identify not just the motivation for why the course is still relevant but also to know how well to maintain the human body. Looking at the foregoing, it becomes essential if as a student you find the patience to understand the history, the value, branch and scope, the course outlines, and the relevance of studying the course in relation to real life practice.

History of Anatomy in Nigeria and All You Need to Know

The history of anatomy extends from the earliest examinations of sacrificial victims to the sophisticated analyses of the body performed by modern anatomists and scientists. Written descriptions of human organs and parts can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Egyptian papyri, where attention to the body was necessitated by their highly elaborate burial practices. Anatomical knowledge in antiquity would reach its apex in the person of Galen, who made important discoveries through his medical practice and his dissections of monkeys, oxen, and other animals. The development of the study of anatomy gradually built upon concepts that were present in Galen’s work, which was a part of the traditional medical curriculum in the Middle Ages.

Following this therefore, let us look into how Nigeria incorporated the course into the Nigerian tertiary curriculum:

1. The Beginning of the Study of Anatomy in Nigerian Tertiary Curriculum

The Anatomy Act of Nigeria is a statute which enables the practice of anatomy in schools, permits medical practitioners, superintendents of schools of anatomy, teachers in such schools, or any student attending such schools to anatomically examine or dissect received bodies.

It was enacted on March 30, 1933. Anatomical studies started in Nigeria as a subject in medicine at the then Higher College, Yaba, Lagos, as far back as 1930. Over the next decades, the study of Anatomy in schools has expanded. The subject is taught not only in colleges but in public (both federal and state-owned) and private universities as well. So far, 32 public and private universities in Nigeria offer programs leading to the award of bachelor’s degree in Anatomy, while 53 schools offer programs in medicine or dentistry which have Anatomy at its core. Anatomy education in Nigeria began in 1963 at the University of Ibadan. Currently, many Nigerian universities offer programs leading to the award of bachelor’s degrees in Anatomy.

Additionally, universities offering programs in other allied medical and healthcare programs such as Nursing, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Physiotherapy, Environmental Health, Optometry, Radiography, Human Nutrition, Public Health, Pharmacology, Physiology, among others are required to take courses in Anatomy.

Postgraduate studies in Anatomy are carried out in a few universities at masters and doctoral levels. The master’s program spans between 18 and 24 calendar months depending on the university while the doctoral lasts a minimum of 36 calendar months. Entry requirements into the master’s program include a bachelor’s degree in Anatomy or Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery or Dentistry and other allied health sciences.

Moreover, Anatomy is also studied at specialized institutions or monotechnic such as Colleges of Health Technology and Schools of Nursing which train manpower for the primary health care sector. Generally, the content of Anatomy is divided into Gross Anatomy, Histology, Embryology, Neuroanatomy, and Genetics.

However, the extent of content and depth of coverage for each program varies widely depending on individual program curricula as determined by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and other respective regulatory councils. For instance, students pursuing the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree are required to take 18 hours of anatomy contact on a weekly basis over a period of 45 weeks. These contact hours are spread across lectures, practical sessions in gross anatomy, and histology as well as tutorials. Typically, faculty members consist of professional Anatomists and Medical Doctors.

The primary mode of studying Anatomy in Nigerian institutions and most of the other parts of Africa is by didactic lectures and whole body dissections.

2. Problems Faced in Incorporating Anatomy in Nigeria

These are some of the challenges faced by those who attempted to bring the course into the Nigerian academic curriculum:

  • Enabling law

Though the Anatomy Act of Nigeria was enacted in 1933, the law has major deficiencies which are yet to be addressed. Largely, the current law appears to be obsolete in view of recent developments in Anatomical sciences since the law was enacted over 80 years ago. For instance, the Anatomy Act did not make any clear procedures for voluntary body donations for medical education. Others include lack of a regulatory authority to oversee the anatomy practice, absence of licensed superintendents even though the law made mention of it, etc. Anatomy professionals in Nigeria are of the opinion that the law is out-of-date and need major changes to meet up with current global trends. They were of the notion that the Anatomy Act be amended to capture body donation as well as establish a Council for regulating Anatomy professionals among others.

  • Shortage of Anatomy Teachers

The most obvious challenge is the shortage of Anatomy teachers, which is evident in both public and private universities across Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries (with the possible exception of South Africa). A global surge in the number of students taking anatomy courses means more challenges in anatomy education. This is evidenced by the increased number of accredited colleges and faculties offering programs in health sciences in Nigeria. It is reported that the staff–student ratio in major departments of Anatomy in Nigeria is 1:15–35. This ratio falls short of the NUC’s recommendation of 1:10. It cannot guarantee sufficient student–staff interaction which certainly has adverse implications for learning. Ensuing from the above may be some form of “quackery” where
the people who do not have the requisite qualifications for teaching the subject are found doing so in an attempt to make up for insufficient faculty.

  • Scarcity of cadavers

The cadaver is a vital tool for learning anatomy, research, and for developing clinical skills among others. Despite being the cornerstone for learning anatomy, the sourcing, storage, and management of these cadavers remain a problem in Nigeria. Over the years, there has been an increasing demand for cadavers in medical institutions. At the moment, there is no known body donation program in Nigeria. The main source of cadavers still remains unclaimed bodies, often of accident victims or felons, which are donated to the schools by the government. A major point of concern is the inability to ascertain how long such bodies have been stored in the morgues before they are supplied to schools for the purpose of teaching and learning. Furthermore, because these are felons or accident victims, there is the likelihood that some body parts may be badly mutilated or even missing. Dissecting cadavers with missing or mutilated parts will prevent the students from appreciating the lessons taught with such bodies, as compared to fresh and whole bodies. Similarly, a study carried out in Ibadan, Nigeria revealed that an overwhelming majority of the cadavers are usually male. Thus, optimal learning is hampered, as the students are more exposed to and thus become more conversant with male anatomy which differs significantly from that of females. In reality, when they qualify as clinicians, their patients will be both male and female.

  • Teaching facilities

Other challenges facing Anatomy education in Nigeria according to a study conducted among medical students include are lack of teaching facilities, laboratory consumables, inadequate number of academic and technical staff, little time allotted for study and transportation [29]. Anatomy teaching and learning is best achieved through audio-visual means [30]. Essential facilities include anatomical models, laboratories, microscopes, cameras, microtomes, tissue processors, cryostats, computers, projectors, dissection tools, etc. The anatomy museum is expected to be stashed with manikins to augment cadaver dissection as a tool for learning. However, many institutions due to insufficient funding are unable to procure these manikins in sufficient quantities to meet up with the number of students. Even when some of these are available, they are sometimes obsolete or not in their best working conditions. If these are lacking in anatomical museums and laboratories, meaningful teaching and learning may not be achieved and thus result of anatomy exams may be greatly affected.

3. The List of Nigerian Universities Where Anatomy can be Studied
  • Afe Babalola University
  • University of Ibadan
  • Ahmadu Bello University
  • Ambrose Alli University
  • Anambra State University
  • Babcock University
  • Bayero University
  • Benue State University
  • Bowen University, Iwo
  • Delta State University
  • Ebonyi State University
  • Enugu State University Of Science And Technology
  • Federal University, Ndufu-Alike,
  • Gregory University
  • Igbinedion University
  • Madonna University
  • Nnamdi Azikiwe University
  • Northwest University
  • Olabisi Onabanjo University
  • Ondo State University Of Medical Sciences
  • Osun State University
  • University Of Benin
  • University Of Ilorin
  • University Of Jos
  • University Of Maiduguri
  • University Of Port-Harcourt
  • University Of Uyo
  • University Of Calabar
4. The Course Duration for Anatomy in Nigerian Universities

The normal duration for the study of Anatomy as a course in the Nigerian universities that offer it is just 4 years. It is then after this a graduate will be given a B.Sc. in Human Anatomy. But it is advised you go for your Masters degree immediately after the 1-year compulsory service in the country.

5. UTME Requirement for the Study of Anatomy in Nigeria

For any candidate to have a pass score into any Nigerian university that allows for the study of Anatomy or Human Anatomy, he or she must score up to 260 and above as the latest JAMB cut off mark or point for Human Anatomy for 2022/2023 academic session. The subjects that must be sit in UTME are Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

6. O’level Requirement for the Course

Five (5) SSC credit passes in English Language, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics is compulsory for admission into any Nigerian Universities.

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