Sunday, May 01, 2011

A strange symmetry

Medical schools typically begin their first year curriculum with gross anatomy. Whether or not there is any actual pedagogical value in this is uncertain, but it is nevertheless true. I think that mostly this is the case because gross anatomy serves not only to teach the geography of the human body, but also to accustom medical students to death. After dissecting, cutting, scraping, sawing, and otherwise exposing a cadaver for several months, we became very comfortable with the dead bodies donated to science by their former owners.

Oddly enough, my medical school experience has come full circle. I finished the year in the city medical examiner's office. Every body that was found under suspicious circumstances, with drug paraphenalia, signs of violence, under the age of 50, or unexpectedly came to our office. These were bodies donated unwittingly. An autopsy is not quite as invasive as a dissection performed by a medical neophyte. Typically, a Y-shaped incision is made from the clavicles, joining at the sternum, and proceeding to the umbilicus. The internal organs are removed, and the incision is sewn back up. The skull is also opened to remove the brain, but again, the wound is re-approximated and sewn shut. Oddly, the cranial vault is filled with rolled up newspaper so that the bone flap and skin can be sewn shut for improved cosmesis. I imagine in 500 years, when some archeologist is digging around our fair city, they'll stumble across these skeletons and will find traces of Doonesbury or the Classifieds still in the skull. Imagine the conclusions they'll draw. But I digress. The body, after an autopsy, is still mostly intact, whereas after a medical student dissection, it is anything but.

After 4 years of medical training, I am comfortable touching a dead body, or a live one. That having been said, I am apprehensive about my upcoming internship. Gone will be the protective cloak (both legal and figurative) of being a student. Now my orders will count and notes will matter. It's odd to think that with regards to my body of medical knowledge, nothing is going to change significantly in the next 4 weeks, yet after May 21, I can legally call myself Doctor.

Also, I want my head stuffed with the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, and Pearls Before Swine. That oughtta keep those archeologists guessing.


Maggie said...

I personally enjoy Baby blues.

Dan's mom said...

Vintage comics - you don't plan to go cheaply.

Mindy said...

We can't forget about Get Fuzzy. That would be a great one to be stuffed with.