Tales from Anatomy Part 1

What a week! I write this on my first Saturday after my first week of anatomy, and I am still alive to tell the tale. This Clinical Anatomy course is seven weeks long, which means we will be immersed in anatomy until Thanksgiving or so. I’ll likely write just once each week as I suffer through the course. There is a pretty significant time commitment involved between attending lectures, doing the dissections, and then learning the material.

Yes, the material. The fire hose analogy is definitely beginning to apply (med school is like drinking from a fire hose). The first block of Cell Biology was like a high pressure garden hose (enough to drown you, probably) but just the first week of anatomy was upgraded to full-size fire hose. I have a relatively good background in anatomy, having taken a difficult course in undergrad that included cadaver work, but this is pretty intense. 

The course is organized like this. Every morning we have lectures on pertinent structures and organs (muscles of the back, etc) as well as clinical problems associated with those structures (spinal trauma, paralysis, etc for spinal cord). This can take anywhere from a quick hour of lecture up to 5 hours of lecture. After that’s finished we go the cadaver lab. Three students are assigned per body for each day of dissection, but we switch off with another group of 3 about every other day. That means I do dissections with two others on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while three other students dissect Tuesday and Thursday. Once we finish our dissection, we present all of the muscles and structures we found to the other half of the group. 

The pace is pretty frantic, because I believe that when the faculty shortened the course from 10 to 7 weeks they kept the same amount of dissection and cut out other activities like cross sections. My experience with dissection in the past has been very meticulous and careful, with lots of effort taken to make sure the maximum amount of material can be gleaned from each body. This is more like “do as best as you can but make sure you do it really fast”. In the first week we have done the back, neck, thorax, heart, lungs, and associated nerves, glands, and muscles. Then we took a quiz on it yesterday. That’s a pretty quick pace.

There is good news. First, the course only has six weeks left, and I can probably do anything for six weeks. Second, I do actually enjoy dissection work. While tedious and time consuming and smells bad and sometimes burns my eyes, it’s actually pretty cool to be able to learn anatomy so directly. Very few people have the privilege to ever look inside of a body like this, and I think it’s cool that I can see the heart, lungs, and vessels that once kept someone alive. 

So after one week I’m still in good shape. I have had a great Saturday around the house with my wife and the puppy. I have a great book to read (non-class material). There has been some absolutely FANTASTIC baseball played the last few days. The Cardinals took game 1 into the 13th inning, keeping me awake until 12:30 last night. I’m also excited to see the Red Sox play the Tigers tonight, since I think the Sox could clean house against the Tigers. On a different note, the incredibly terrible Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Denver to play the amazingly talented Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos this weekend. I bet Denver wins by 40. Lastly, the greatest race on earth is being held today in Hawaii, as the Ironman World Championship is going on today. It’s been a beautiful fall weekend and a fulfilling week, and to make sure I’m ready for the next week I’m going to stop blogging for now and continue on later. 

Thanks for Reading!

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