Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Anatomy Lab

I have mixed feelings about anatomy lab. On the one hand, I enjoyed nothing more than learning the anatomy of the body and seeing it on the cadaver, but on the other hand, most dissections were a tedious chore. On yet another hand (work with me people), I struggled, on a spiritual level, with the poor treatment of some of the bodies.

Anatomy came easy to me. I could study figures from Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy, go into the lab and identify the structures, review by flipping through Moore's Clinically Oriented Anatomy, and calling it a day. I think it has to do with the way my brain is wired. As I mentioned in the "Teaching" post, I am a visual learner. Once I saw a structure and identified the structures around it, it just stuck in my mind. For example, if it was a muscle, I could visualize what it would move and any nerves and blood vessels associated with it. I think it has something to do with the way my brain processes and stores spatial arrangements. For instance, when taking Organic Chemistry in college, determining whether a given stereoisomer was the S or R configuration, was like distinguishing my right shoe from my left.

The only lesson learned from actually dissecting was that the body has a lot of fat and fascia. I feel that many of the hours wasted in lab could have been better used studying physiology and the rest of the lecture material. It is just not possible for everyone to work on the body at the same time. In addition, when the instructor came around to review structures, it was not possible for everyone to see the demonstration. Having said all that, a couple of the dissections (e.g., opening the cranium, opening the thoracic cavity) were exciting and really held my attention. I do not believe that lab is pointless. I simply think that it is most effective with a small group and, unfortunately, my tank had a lot of people.

How does one decide that they are going to participate in a body donation program? At this point in my life, I could not make that choice. I can't even bring myself to become an organ donor, though I like the idea and understand that it could save someone's life or improve their quality of life. I mean, it's not like I'm going to need my organs when I'm dead, right?

The individuals who donate their bodies to medical education trust that their bodies will be used and handled appropriately and treated with respect. I feel that this trust was broken by tanks that allowed their bodies to quickly dry up and that did not wrap and cover their bodies well at the end of their sessions. I heard some people making jokes or inappropriate comments about the bodies. My strong feelings on this issue made it difficult to look at and work on the face. At times I would think, "We should not be doing this." But I can see that these feelings have to do with me and the beliefs that my mother had about the connection between mind, body, and spirit.

To those individuals and families that donated bodies to further my medical education, I say Thank You.


stinky said...

Nicely written post.

I was actually a little sad to see anatomy lab end. I knew that I'd be seeing some of those structures for the last time and might never see any of them again. It was cool to see the tensor veli palatini, for example, but I felt a little melancholy that I'd never see that little fellow again.

I too was bothered by how some of those bodies were mutilated by my classmates. There were detached heads, dried up cadavers that had their legs removed because they were unusable. I think my classmates' carelessness with these donations disturbed me more than any spiritual association with the body. However, I appreciate what you are saying and wish more people thought of these bodies as you do.

Keep up with the blog. So far so good!!!

DC Med Student said...

Thanks Stinky.

I had a hard time trying to describe my feelings, but your comment is on point. I think it was some of my classmates' blatant disregard for some of the remains that most disturbed me, prompting the reflections on mind, body, and spirit. I agree with you 100%.