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Undergraduate Teaching 

MVST IA Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology

Course organiser: Dr D Bainbridge (email: db125@cam.ac.uk)

Overview

Welcome to the Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology course (VAP). This is the course in which you will first learn about the gross structure of the animal body.

By the end of this year, you will have a detailed knowledge of the general arrangement of many of the body's organ systems, in particular the locomotor, cardiovascular, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary and digestive system. You will also understand how those systems form in a few fleeting weeks from a single fertilised egg, and also you will hopefully appreciate that the mammalian body has evolved over hundreds of millions of years from simpler ancestral life forms.

Your course is divided into three main portions. (1) You receive up to three lectures a week, and these are usually arranged on a system-by-system basis. (2) There are also up to three practicals a week. Often, but not always, these are wet practicals or dissections, but they are arranged slightly differently. While it makes sense to lecture system-by-system, this is not the order in which structures reveal themselves as you dissect. Because of this, many of the practicals are arranged on a regional basis - for example, many the components of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are jumbled up together in one region of the body: the thorax. We have also arranged some 'live anatomy' sessions at the Vet School for you to learn to apply some of what you have learnt to the living, breathing, biting, kicking animal. (3) Weekly supervisions will be arranged by your college to help you develop your understanding of the subject and hone your writing skills.

Although anatomy is the study of body structure, it does not exist in a vacuum, and the anatomy you learn will be related constantly to other scientific disciplines - especially physiology. This may take the form of discussions of the biomechanics of elements or the locomotor system, or more formal expression in lectures on comparative aspects of digestive physiology later in the course.

It is probably worth mentioning the things not covered in this course. (1) First, not all body systems are covered this year - the reproductive system and the central nervous system are covered in their own courses in the second year. (2) Second, that most elaborate of all anatomical constructs, the head, gets a course of its own next year. (3) Third, histology, the study of the microscopic structure of the body is covered in the first year Homeostasis course. (4) Finally, in this first year, we will only have time to focus on the major domestic species, and even that coverage will often be biased to certain species, but next year you will take a course on a more varied range of vertebrates.

Anatomy can be an enjoyable, inspiring subject, as long as you try not to get overwhelmed by some of the detail. Some detail is important - especially in certain clinical contexts - but in many cases, a more general view can be more helpful. If you feel the clouds of anatomical confusion closing in on you, then remember to stand back, take a deep breath, look at the big picture, and then ask one of us.