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World’s First 3D Anatomy Model To Offer Diverse Skin Tones And Facial Features Announced

The new 3D anatomy teaching platform is tackling racial bias in medical teaching.

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Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

clockJan 10 2023, 17:06 UTC
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Improving representation in learning materials will ultimately lead to better healthcare. Image courtesy of Complete Anatomy 2023 from Elsevier

One year ago, Elsevier released Complete Anatomy: the world’s most advanced full female 3D model for medical teaching. It aimed to tackle male bias in medical teaching, but the team behind its creation knew there was still much to be done to correct racial bias. Now, Complete Anatomy 2023 hopes to do just that as the world’s first 3D anatomy teaching platform to offer diverse skin tones and facial features.

Much of our understanding of the human body comes from an incomplete picture of anatomy. In the past, males – often executed criminals, white, and European – were dissected to create a body plan for Homo sapiens, and while most would be happy to sit out that particular chapter in medical history, the enduring effect is that much of even modern-day anatomy teaching is based on male bodies.

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The Complete Anatomy from Elsevier model of female anatomy began to chip away at this by creating more representation in the way that humans naturally differ from one another. 

"I think it's a massive step forward and it means that as an educator we can work with medical students and healthcare students, right from their first day of training," Prof. Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy for Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the UK and contributor to the model, told IFLScience in an interview at the time of its release. 

"Having a completely fully female version is an amazing step and I'd really like to challenge the creators of this Complete Anatomy to then be working on racial differences within the bodies that exist.”

Now, one year on, they’ve done just that with Complete Anatomy 2023 from Elsevier, which features the world’s first-ever 3D anatomy teaching platform to offer diverse facial features and skin tones.


Light-skinned bodies have dominated medical learning for hundreds of years, with less than 5 percent of images in general medical texts including dark skin tones. The need for better representation was demonstrated when medical illustrator, student, and aspiring neurosurgeon Chidiebere Ibe went viral for his medical illustrations depicting black bodies, leading to many realizing they’d never seen such images.

“The striking absence of different skin tones and different physical traits in the medical field is something universities and health educators of all kinds are finally taking notice of,” said Dr Fatimah Jackson, Professor of Biological Anatomy at Howard University, in a statement. “For so long, students and faculty of color have had to learn and teach in what has, in ways, been an unfamiliar setting.”

“This is a pivotal step taken by 3D4Medical from Elsevier to address a prevalent bias in the healthcare field. It’s a move that will hopefully put us on course to creating a more representative and inclusive environment for all those that dedicate themselves to the health and service of others.”

Improving representation across medical learning carries into clinical care, as certain conditions may appear differently on dark skin compared to light skin. Therefore, clinicians-in-training can only build a true picture of disease presentation by studying a diverse range of bodies, facial anatomy and skin tones.

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“The urgent need to actively introduce broader representation into learning resources for future healthcare professionals is well-documented,” said Irene Walsh, Director of Product, Content and Design at 3D4Medical from Elsevier. 

“As a global product, Complete Anatomy is invested in leading the way to offer diverse materials for students, educators, and clinicians to help create an inclusive approach to their learning and teaching.”


healthHealth and Medicinehealthmedicine
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