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Anatomy class sans cadavers: it would be a shame

March 13th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Enoch responded to my post yesterday No Cadavers Required and provided his perspective on these changes in medical education:

There were a couple of valuable things I got from working on cadavers. The first chance to cut into human flesh, however oily and toughened by preservatives. It’s kinda like overcooked chicken, really. The first introduction to the bare elderly body. The first disimpaction of stool. The first struggles with my manual dexterity during dissections. The first frustrations of academic competition. The first joys of partnering with my roomie on a project. The first memorials i attended for a patient, honoring my cadaver “Wilma” for the privilege of learning from her. The chance to share a glimpse of this privilege with my in-laws, and the disappointment with not having the chance to share it with my immediate family [sorry guys, mom, dad].

Over the last few days I’ve read of how that So Cal med school is suspending cadaver donations until they get to the bottom of the selling of body parts, how the army blew up cadavers in military testing (google “santa clara” and cadaver), how other universities are getting into hot water with their cadaver donation programs, and i wonder how long med students will have the privilege i had. I read that UCSF is no longer using cadavers. In many ways I think you can better use your time learning the anatomy from studying from interactive tools and paper atlases, than in the endless hours slowly peeling away layers on our cadavers. On the other hand, it’s a practice that ties us to the traditions of medical training, the rigors of standing hunched over a seemingly impenetrably complexity that has bright moments of lucid enlightenment, clouded most of the time by endless layers of connective tissue. The rest of medical training isn’t all that different. Especially during surgery rotations.

I think it would be a shame that future med students won’t have the opportunity to work on cadavers. Sure, it was partially a big waste of time. But it taught you things other than just the knowledge of anatomy. It taught patience, cooperation, how hard you had to work to reach an elusive goal, and how to cope with not finding what you’re looking for. All processes repeated many times through the rest of our medical careers.

And through life too…thanks, Enoch.

Tags: news

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 13, 2004 at 9:54 pm

    I got to visit Wilma once, but i didn’t stay long – the smell and atmosphere in there was quite overwhelming…David was better able to stomach it.

  • 2 enoch choi // Mar 13, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    wow, i didn’t even remember introducing you Katherine! that’s wonderful. Wilma was a big part of a year of my life 😉 Glad you guys got a chance to meet…