Dissection

Wow, I can’t believe how quickly the year is flying by.  At this rate, the end of the year will be here before I know it, and my end of semester exams are just around the corner (in all honesty, I’m a little bit terrified by this prospect).  I don’t feel I know enough to be examined on.

This week, we had our first dissection class, and it was a rather interesting experience.  I don’t think I’ve dissected anything since year 8 biology, and that was a very long time ago.  Walking into the gross anatomy facility I was incredibly nervous, and was wondering if I’d be able to somehow escape the lab, without actually picking up the dissection tools.

A small part of my apprehension came from my lack of experience, but the majority stemmed from the simple fact that lying on that cold metal slab were the remnants of another human being.  Someone who had loved and was loved. A person who would have laughed and cried.  Who likely bounced children and possibly grandchildren on their lap, and rocked them to sleep with the very elbow awaiting my lab group on that cold slab.

Trying to disconnect that part of my brain from the task at hand was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  And just when I thought I had accomplished it, something small would grab my attention, such as the hair still protruding from the leathery, preserved skin, and remind me anew that this arm belonged to someone who had lived.

The absolute generosity shown by these people, who donate their bodies to science is incredible, and something I am grateful for.   A classmate of mine commented that they had learned more from this one dissection, than they had in our regular anatomy lab (with plastic models and pots) and to some extent I agree with them.

I should point out, that the objective of this dissection class was not for us to learn anatomy, but rather to get a feel for surgical instruments and how they interact with the human body.  It was to practice our technique, and understand the purpose and use of different instruments.  To feel the different layers encountered when cutting into a body, and to be aware that cutting what you can’t see is a very bad idea, lest you sever something you had no intention of severing.

However, I don’t think the actual dissection by students is necessary in learning anatomy. It is useful for putting everything in to perspective, but it is time consuming with very little gain.  I do think the use of wet specimens/ pro-sections however is incredibly helpful in putting the whole picture together. Unfortunately we don’t have wet specimens / pro-sections in our normal anatomy classes, and I do think this would aid in anatomy understanding.

We have another dissection class next week, and while I’m not dreading it like I was last week, I’m not eagerly anticipating it either!

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3 thoughts on “Dissection

  1. “lying on that cold metal slab were the remnants of another human being. Someone who had loved and was loved.”
    Man… reading this I feel like I must really be cold hearted. In all honesty, in my 2 years of dissecting cadavers, I’ve never really thought that. Whenever I get into the lab and put my “game face” on, the excitement of scalpel on body and finding the hard-to-find parts is just.. hmm. It does have its advantages though.

    “I don’t think the actual dissection by students is necessary in learning anatomy.”
    I’ll have to go against that notion. It’s actually easier and more convenient than just reading the book and imagining it. There’s also the positioning and the anatomical differences and peculiarities in individuals that I believe are things you will only truly understand when you dissect.
    I am curious on what made you say so. If you don’t mind expounding more on that I’d love to know why. 🙂

    • I don’t think it makes you cold hearted to have never thought the same thing, everyone perceives the world differently and places different values on different experiences. I think perhaps I’m just a bit more of a sensitive soul / dreamer than most. I’m not sure that any of my colleagues have had the same thoughts as I. I honestly think it would have been a lot easier and perhaps my thoughts on the whole dissection experience would be different if I didn’t have such thoughts.

      Oh, I absolutely agree that seeing the real thing does make the understanding of anatomy that much clearer. However, I don’t think I need to be the one wielding the scalpel to get this appreciation. I found I learned far more by a guided tour through the pro-sections with a tutor then I did from either books and plastic models (as available in our normal lab) or dissecting the specimens that were available to us. I guess what it comes down to for me, is that while I believe a thorough understanding of anatomy is essential for the practice of medicine, it is not the be all and end all IMHO.

      I do think it’s important to realise that anatomical differences and peculiarities exist within individuals, however I’m not sure that the full understanding you propose is absolutely necessary for the practice of medicine in general. I haven’t had the dissection experience you have had, but I do appreciate that there are many anatomical differences and peculiarities that exist within the human body, as can be evidenced throughout the world in many different fields of science. I think being prepared for any eventuality in the practice of medicine with this understanding is more beneficial – each patient is going to be different from the next anatomically, and you’re not going to know that just from looking at them 😉

  2. Ahh.. I see where we differed. I was on the level of thinking of purely learning anatomy (and probably a bit with surgery) while yours was on the level of the basic practice of medicine in its entirety. From that point of view, then I guess we can both agree.
    I do think it would be more benificial for those who plan on going to surgery to be more hands on with the dissection though.

    There’s also the difference on each our school’s method of teaching and facilities and stuff. We don’t really have pro-sections. Well, not exactly. What we have are cadavers where only the students are to handle. The professors would leave it up to the students to dissect or not. They only watch and check if the students are doing anything or scold if doing something wrong like cutting something not meant to be cut or hiding some parts.. hehe..
    I’m one of the few who enjoys doing it so I ended up being the tutor to some of my group mates though I don’t feel like the right person for it. I do pray they passed with how I was teaching them though hahah xD.

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