From our anonymous insider…
Anatomy begins at 7:00 am sharp. With the outside temperature well over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we immediately know we are entering a different kind of learning experience kept at a chilling 55 degrees! Most of my classmates seem excited for a break from the 4-times a week, 2-3 hour morning lectures on cellular and molecular biology. Not only can these lectures be somewhat tedious, especially for the abundant biology majors, but everyone seems eager for something different from the traditional undergraduate lecture format. The class piles into the classroom and begins on time — surgeons are punctual.
The trauma surgeon instructor briefly goes over dissection tool technique and we begin the exam of our “first patient”. Our first dissection focuses on understanding the role of the “superficial back muscles” on shoulder support and joint motion. The scapulae, or shoulder blade, is an alien wing-like bone almost completely detached from the central skeletal system. Unlike most bones, the scapulae is supported primarily by numerous muscle-tendon insertions with just a single bone-bone “pivot” at the lateral edge of the clavicle, or collarbone. The fine-tuned muscle contractions slide the scapulae along the back for precise positioning of the shoulder joint.
As I look around at my new classmates, scalpels in hand, most sluggish from a night of getting to know each other over booze and late-night burgers, you see a few patterns. Aspiring physicians include an abundance of type A personalities, which means that many clamor to be the primary dissector. However, once the dissection begins you can quickly see the few who are captivated by anatomical exploration through slicing and dicing. I would bet that those few pursue the cult of surgery, addicted to the “cut” as one of my surgical physician mentors put it.
Class ends at 12:30 pm and I grab lunch with my classmate who is a young father. It turns out that his wife is also starting a graduate program meaning their budding family is entirely supported by student loans. They’re expecting a second child soon. He jokes that he’ll just use all his vomit-stained clothes for anatomy lab.
Class begins every weekday either at 7:00 or 8:00 am. Two days per week, classes, workshops, patient interviews, and other activities end before 1:00 pm. On the other three days activities conclude around 4:00 pm. We have anatomy lab once per week. The rest of the week is centered on lectures about cell and molecular biology, including signalling pathways, molecular structure-function pairings and cell microenvironment. Much of the material is familiar from my undergraduate biomedical engineering studies. However, after a year in the working world, I am surprised by how much I have forgotten. I spent a total of 6 hours doing homework this week. Dinners were off-campus with classmates. A typical weekend activity is a pick-up soccer game, getting drinks downtown, or a class hike.
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