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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


Junior anatomy demonstrator posts are available each year at the Human Anatomy Teaching Group, Department of PDN, University of Cambridge. Find out more about eligibility and what the role involves. Recruitment starts towards the end of January each year.

Based on contributions made by Dr Nick Chilvers, Junior Anatomy Demonstrator, Human Anatomy Teaching Group 2017-18

Why should I consider a job as an anatomy demonstrator?

This is a fantastic opportunity for any post-FY2 junior doctor who wants to get heavily involved in the planning and delivery of anatomy teaching, carry out research and improve their own anatomical knowledge whilst maintaining their clinical skills. The job is ideal for those who are interested in surgery, radiology or medical education, but anyone is welcome to apply.

What are the details of the post?

The job is a year-long post from August to August, in line with the junior doctor training year.

Each demonstrator position is linked to a surgical clinical fellow job at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The posts for 2019-20 are in plastic surgery, ENT, urology, maxillofacial surgery and trauma & orthopaedics, although this may change year on year. 

Salary is paid by the hospital trust grade pay-scale.  Please contact Addenbrooke’s medical staffing for the most up to date rates. 

How is the anatomy course structured at Cambridge?

The anatomy course is very comprehensive and provides students with a strong grounding for their clinical practice. 

Students are taught the majority of their anatomy during the first two years of the course. In the first year they study anatomy from the thoracic inlet down, and in the second they learn head & neck anatomy and neuroanatomy.  As a demonstrator you will be teaching the first two components, with optional involvement in the neuroanatomy course depending on your clinical interest.

Students have the option of completing Part II modules in anatomy and  demonstrators may also be involved in these research projects.

As part of the curriculum at Cambridge, during the clinical years (4-6), students return to the department for clinically orientated anatomy revision sessions that complement their current clinical placements, and you will be involved in these.

How is anatomy taught at Cambridge?

Cambridge continues to teach anatomy through cadaveric dissection, which we believe is the best way for students not only to gain a detailed anatomical understanding but also to develop other skills crucial for their future practice: haptic skills, teamwork, professionalism, respect for patients, and an awareness of anatomical variations and a variety of pathological conditions.

Small groups of up to 8 students will dissect the same donor throughout the year allowing continuity and the chance to build up a clinical picture of normal and abnormal anatomy or pathology. This is then presented at the end of the year.

Dissection is taught by a large team of highly knowledgeable senior demonstrators alongside the junior demonstrator team.

The students also have applied anatomy sessions for each system which focuses on the more clinical aspects, including meeting real patients. Junior demonstrators are often very much involved in these sessions, especially in demonstrating living anatomy, presenting patients and teaching clinical skills, e.g. auscultation.

Aside from dissection, prosections are also available and demonstrators lead small group tutorials for important structures within each session. Other resources include touchscreen software in the dissection room, and a vast array of models and radiological images.

A lecture course also runs in parallel, and students receive weekly small-group supervisions in their colleges.

How is the work split between clinical practice and teaching?

This depends on the department for which you are working clinically. While clinical duties take priority, you will be expected to negotiate attendance at several key dates in the dissection room. Outside of these on-call duties you are in the anatomy facility, contributing to teaching, research and outreach activity. 

During the 8-week term, on average, you could expect 5 weeks teaching and 3 weeks of on-call responsibilities, subject to changing clinical demands year on year.  On the whole, for most of the specialties, clinical commitments are on-calls/theatre days/clinics with less general ward cover to ensure maximal learning opportunities. The amount of clinical commitment is of course largely dependent on hospital staffing levels.

What is a typical working week in the anatomy department?

A typical week is as follows, but note that there are briefing sessions from 9am on Monday and Thursday mornings. In addition, junior demonstrators will also be expected to assist the technical team in the dissection room where necessary.


19 Feb, 10:00-12:00

Dissection Practical   21: Superficial Lower Limb


20 Feb, 10:00-12:00

Dissection Practical   21: Superfic. Lower Limb (repeat)


21 Feb, 10:00-12:00

Abdominal Ultrasound


22 Feb, 10:00-12:00

Dissection Practical 22: Compartments of the Lower Limb


23 Feb, 14:00-16:00

Dissection Practical   22: Compart's Lower Limb (repeat)


Occasionally there are also sessions for 4th/5th/6th year students. These usually take place on Monday afternoons.

For the first half of Michaelmas term we also teach Head & Neck Anatomy to second year students, so there will be additional 2-hour session on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings.

You will be expected to attend the briefing sessions and to assist with setting up of the classes, along with preparing your own teaching. As you can see from the schedule, there will be time to carry out your own research - indeed it is actively encouraged and supported.


Does the job involve any training in anatomy demonstration?

In short, of course! All you are expected to have to start with is a good basic level of anatomy and an interest in teaching.

For the first two months of the job the students are not yet back at university. During this time, the department will familiarise you with the course. There is a weekly session where a senior demonstrator will teach you key anatomy on prosections and give you an array of hints and tips to use during your teaching. 

You will have the opportunity to undertake an informal formative examination similar to that sat by the students in their final exams.  This allows you to identify areas of your knowledge which need further study.

Finally, before each dissection session, Dr Cecilia Brassett, the University Clinical Anatomist, will go through the learning objectives, relevant anatomy, and tips for that session.

If in doubt at any point, just ask a senior demonstrator; you are not expected to know everything the students ask!


What teaching opportunities are available outside the dissection room?

There is the opportunity to become involved in supervising medical students.  Depending on availability, demonstrators can choose to either supervise anatomy for a college, or to give bedside clinical supervisions.  These are both optional, but are paid positions and many demonstrators find them incredibly rewarding.  The latter also enables you to enrol in the IFME teaching programme, providing formal training which is recognised on applications.

Each year several junior demonstrators undertake a PGCert in Medical Education, mostly through the University of Cambridge or the University of Bedfordshire.  This can normally be funded by applying to the deanery, is very informative, and looks good on future applications.

The Cambridge University Surgical Society frequently enlists our help at teaching sessions such as subcuticular suturing workshops.

You mentioned research. What opportunities are available?

The department is very active in carrying out research, both with the students directly and also among the demonstrators. In fact, due to the fantastic gift of having so many body donors, we get a lot of interest from clinicians in other regions who wish to be involved in research.

You can tailor projects to your interest and the University Clinical Anatomists, Dr Cecilia Brassett and Dr Helen Taylor, and the Chief Teaching Technician, Mrs Maria Wright, are key in helping to make these feasible and providing contact with suitable clinicians as necessary.

We always aim to submit abstracts to both the BACA (British Association of Clinical Anatomists) and the Anatomical Society conferences. These conferences were hosted by Cambridge in 2018 and 2015 respectively. Junior demonstrators each year have presented posters and given oral presentations at summer or winter meetings of both societies.

Junior demonstrators have also been successful in publishing work done in the department. There are therefore ample opportunities to boost your CV.

What other opportunities are available?

Public engagement    

We are involved in two major outreach events by the university; The Cambridge Festival of Ideas and The Cambridge Science Festival. These are both thoroughly enjoyable, especially encouraging children to have a go at our giant ‘operation’ game.

Running courses

Each year we run MRCS revision courses and in 2017-18 ran DOHNS and Cardiothoracic anatomy courses.  Outside faculty often comment on the excellent quality of the prosections we have available. These are hugely enjoyable to organise and, you guessed it, also look good on future applications.

Cambridge Anatomy Demonstrators Society

The society was established to further interest in anatomy and anatomical research in the wider community, and to create a network of anatomy demonstrators/enthusiasts. We aim to have an annual national poster evening, dinner and talk. The inaugural talk was given by Prof Harold Ellis, who was the very first University Clinical Anatomist to be appointed in Cambridge. There are multiple committee positions available to junior demonstrators.

What about other areas of career development?

Junior demonstrators have found it an excellent year to complete other important aspects of their training. This includes courses and also exams. In particular, it lends itself incredibly well to sitting the MRCS examinations. Not only are you teaching the anatomy, an area a lot of people find difficult, but it is likely several of you will all be sitting the examination at roughly the same time, and the evidence shows success is higher in those who studied in groups. (It also makes the late nights more bearable). Between the teaching sessions we would quiz each other on prosections, or ask senior demonstrators to teach or test our knowledge.  Many of the senior demonstrators are either practising or retired clinicians so can also assist in the clinical examination aspects. 

It is also useful on the run-up to CST applications as, outside of the scheduled teaching, we helped each other in our preparations.

In summary

In my opinion, this a fantastic opportunity for an FY3/4/5 portfolio year in a friendly, engaging department. Most demonstrators find it hugely rewarding, a chance to further their anatomical knowledge, develop their teaching skills, undertake research and present or publish their work.  The opportunities are huge and you get out of it as much as you are willing to put in.

It therefore strengthens applications for further training posts; indeed, I am convinced that without this year I would not have got into my specialty training post.

If you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact the Human Anatomy Teaching Group, and we can also put you in contact with current junior demonstrators for further advice.