Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Exam Week

And you know I get lazy about writing new posts during exam weeks. So let's play pick-a-stereotyped-medicine-career! Return to normal posts after Thursday.



(I didn't make this chart myself, but I have no idea who did make it so I can't give proper credit)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dissecting: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Today, just the good. Sorry it's long, but there's a lot of good stuff about dissecting!


Dissecting a body is definitely one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had, and probably will ever have. First of all, I find it crazy how much every body is the same (except you, reader, you’re special and unique!). Of course we learn about so many birth defects, but what I’m amazed by is how often things go right, considering how complicated everything is inside us. Where things are in the body and where things go and drain and lead to, etc, etc, are so consistent (most of the time). Maybe I’m some na├»ve first-year student, but I truly am amazed by how good our bodies are at doing what they’re supposed to do. I wonder though if I’ll still feel that same way as I go forward in school and learn about more things that can go wrong.

So my favorite part of dissecting was getting to see and open up the heart and lungs. The lungs were cool because they were surprisingly squishy, and you could also immediately tell the smokers from the non-smokers. The heart was amazing to see because it is such a perfect example of form following function. Getting to open up all the chambers and follow where the blood would run, and seeing the valves – it just all makes such perfect sense, and I like things that make sense.

I also really liked seeing the inside of the kidneys – I don’t know why I liked it so much, but they just looked exactly like the pictures in the book, and they were so much smaller than I was expecting so that I felt like I was holding a mini-version of a kidney, and the first word that came to mind was “cute.” I know, that’s weird. How could a kidney be cute? But I swear it was – the kidneys are seriously adorable. But 180 liters of liquid run through these teeny tiny structures every single day to be filtered – I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t really believe it.

The other thing I really enjoyed about dissecting in general was getting to check out other groups’ bodies. As similar as all bodies are, there are always some surprises. For example, when one group found their heart, there were wires sticking out of it! Robot cadaver? I wish. But it was just a surprise pacemaker. Another group had staples down their rib cage, two groups had cadavers with undescended testicles, one group was missing the gallbladder, and another group had a gallbladder that was enormous! And some of the smaller arteries – uchhh – they are all over the place. Consistent enough to survive I guess, but seeeeeriously, they do not all follow the same path, and that is kind of annoying for those of us who are trying to study for an exam (while we’re on the topic of annoying things about studying for an anatomy exam – why aren’t our bodies completely symmetrical???? That would make my life easier).

The biggest variation between bodies is the size of the muscles and the amount and surprisingly, the color, of fat. Some groups have to spend almost their entire lab time just digging through stuff to get to what we’re actually looking for. One time, one of our professors pointed out an atherosclerotic artery and didn’t even refer to it as an artery, but said “ok, here’s the cheeseburger…” It really made me almost want to start going back to the gym. It also really made me wonder: at what point in a doctor’s career do you start getting cynical?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meet Tag

My dissecting group of 3 (half of my 6-person TBL team) got lucky with an "easy" cadaver. He was a skinny man and in great shape - all of his muscles are big and incredibly well-defined, and therefore easy to identify. Easy, of course, is a relative word, since the first few times you look into a body (ok, every time so far) everything looks the same - turns out it's not nicely color-coded like the pictures in our books.

So during one of the first dissections, we were asking one of the professors where a certain structure was. He quickly pointed to what we were looking for and said, "See, there it is! Whomp, there it is, whomp whomp, like the Run-DMC song!" So since everything in our body was so easy to find (and because with every muscle we identified we could say "whomp there it is"),we decided to call our cadaver Run-DMC. But after some careful, peer-reviewed internet research, we discovered it is not Run-DMC but Tag Team who sings that song - oops, now it's public - I have no music knowledge. So, moral of the story, we call our cadaver Tag.

This name also works because half of our Anatomy exams are "practical" - where the professors tag a structure on the cadaver, and you have to identify that structure. Because our cadaver lends itself to clear dissections, he's always one of the bodies chosen to be tagged on the exams.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And Now, Back to Anatomy

Be honest - you miss posts about anatomy, don't you? Ok ok, relax, you don't have to twist my arm, you talked me into it. I'll write about anatomy again.

So we had a little break from dissecting recently, and we're just getting back into it. Anatomy is divided into four units. The first unit included the arms, legs, chest, and back. The second unit, which we just finished about a week ago, was the thoracic cavity - basically the heart, lungs, and ribs. Not surprisingly, it felt like a MUCH more manageable amount of information than the first unit. There was a also a lot less dissecting, because once you take the heart and lungs out, there's not much to do within the body itself. In comparison, during the first unit it felt like every day we were digging around for a new set of muscles.

Now we're in Unit III which is the abdomen. That includes all of the internal organs - the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, stomach, spleen, small intestine, colon, and about a bajillion and a half arteries, give or take a few. Coming up after December break is Unit IV, the head and neck, which we won't actually be dissecting ourselves, but instead looking at prosections, or pre-dissected structures. So, while it's incredibly hard to believe, we're almost done with dissecting already!

I thought I would introduce you to my cadaver first, and through the next couple posts I'll talk about some of my favorite things about dissecting and then some of the more uncomfortable parts - but I promise, nothing too gory! Before I start talking about all of this though, remember that the cadavers were real living people who made the most amazing donation to allow us to learn from them. When I'm tired and start to get lazy during dissections or want to rush through them (this happens during most dissections...), I try to remind myself that to not take full advantage and learn everything I can is selfish and disrespectful. So while sometimes you have to be able to step back from the cadaver as a person to be able to stomach what you're doing (for example, we cover his face with a towel as we dissect), you should constantly remember to treat the cadaver with as much respect as you would a living patient - minus the whole being-able-to-feel-pain thing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Busy Week

And I'm too lazy to write a post. So enjoy this comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal instead.