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Perceptions of academics and postgraduate students towards the use of plastinated specimens and their public exhibitions.

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Background – The global scarcity of cadavers and prosected specimens for teaching, learning and research has led to plastinated specimens (plastinates) becoming a valuable tool in bridging this gap. Over the last decade, plastinates have been incorporated into the teaching and learning of iross anatomy within anatomy departments as a supplementary tool to cadaveric dissection. A paucity of information exists regarding the views of academics and postgraduate students on the use of plastinates for anatomy teaching and learning. This study aimed to investigate the perceptions of academics and postgraduate students on the use of plastinates in anatomy education and public exhibitions. Methods – Qualitative and quantitative methods of data extraction were employed using a questionnaire on a purposively sampled group of anatomy academics and postgraduate students at the Discipline of Clinical Anatomy, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) for data collection. Quantitative data from the questionnaire were analysed using descriptive statistics and the Mann-Whitney test (p < 0.05 considered statistically significant) to determine significant differences between sub-groups. To assess the perception on the use of plastinates for education and exhibitions, the quantitative responses of participants were grouped and then categorized into three categories i.e. good (10-7), average (6-4), and bad (0-3). Qualitative data from the questionnaire responses were analysed by the content analysis method to reflect emanating themes. Results- Questionnaires were completed by 43 of 62 participants (response rate 69%) i.e. seven academics and 36 postgraduate students completed the questionnaire. Academics (57.1%) and postgraduate students (63.9%) had a good perception on plastgnate use for education. Most academics (85.7%) and postgraduate students (94.4%) made use of plastinates for anatomy education. Various features of plastinates were highlighted, such as their ease of use, durability and ability to view structures clearly in three-dimensions (3D), which aids in understanding for students. However, ethical concerns were highlighted by academics (57.2%) and postgraduate students (55.6%) on the use of plastinates in public exhibitions. Conclusion: Positive reactions of academics and postgraduate students were generally noted, plastinates were found to support anatomy teaching and learning. This reflects that plastinates may become vital for anatomy instruction in South Africa and their more inclusive use is recommended.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.