Digital Anatomy Library

This project addresses problems of access, equity, and diversity present within the current framework of anatomy education. - Jake Shearer and Jonathan Wisco, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology


Anatomy education is foundational for training students in healthcare and biomedical fields, and cadaveric dissection is considered the gold standard because it fosters the development of humanism and empathy by exposing the diversity of the human form as well as provides learners with rich insight into the human body's structural organization and spatial relationships.

Brain artec scan

Despite this importance, student exposure and access to digital anatomy labs in graduate-level education have been steadily reduced over several decades, often re-prioritizing student time to emphasize clinical knowledge and basic sciences. Additionally, there is an emergent trend where well-funded medical schools are moving to expensive alternatives, which creates a growing disparity in anatomy education around problems of access, equity, and diversity:

  • The lack of access to quality resources. Resources with a high degree of anatomical accuracy are often cost-prohibitive and institutions that do not have access to cadaveric anatomy must rely on lower quality alternative resources to teach anatomy. 
  • The transient nature of resources. Donation is an incredible gift to health science students' educational experience; however, due to dissection being a necessarily destructive method of study, anatomical resources have a limited window of educational value. 
  • The lack of human diversity in anatomical resources. Appreciating the diversity of humanity is essential for professional development; however, diversity in anatomical resources is rare due partly to the mistrust that marginalized populations feel towards the medical industry stemming from well-documented historical abuses. 

To address these problems, this project seeks to accomplish the following: 

  • Establish an open-education library of digitally preserved cadaveric anatomy (DPCA) to improve access and equity. A multi-platform library will be published that will empower students to incorporate DPCA into their study routines by limiting access barriers. This multi-platform approach will also be open-education to empower educators to incorporate DPCA into their courses.
  • Extend the educational value of donation by democratizing digital anatomy preservation. The project team will specifically reach out to HBCUs for collaborative partnerships and establish a Journal of Digital Body Preservation editorial board to screen submissions to the BU library. 
  • Emphasize human diversity and gross pathology in the open-education library by fostering inter-departmental and inter-institutional collaboration, which will support BU's anti-racist educational goals of visibility and normalization. 

This project will make novel use of existing technology to improve access and equity of anatomical resources and provide a foundation and workflow to democratize digital body preservation. In result, this project may ultimately establish BU as an international leader in digital body preservation and will improve the access and equity of digital anatomy for health science education worldwide.


Project Impact & Dissemination

  • Shearer, J. (2023). Moving Toward Digital Cadaver Preservation Through Smartphone-Based LiDAR Surface Scanning. To be presented at the APICA-ANZACA annual conference. Dunedin, New Zealand December 2023.

Project Team

Jake Shearer headshot

Jake Shearer

Doctoral student

Jake Shearer (he/him/his) is a PhD student in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His research interests include using technology to improve the preparation and display of cadaver donor dissections to improve anatomical sciences education that improve learning outcomes.

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