This blog comes from a speech I recently gave.
I am passionate about anatomy and feel that it is an amazing and integral part of my practice. Each time that I work with a patient, I use the amazing skills that I gained working in the anatomy lab. I feel there was no better way for me to learn about the human body.
On my first day of dissection for Gross Anatomy, I had no idea what to expect. I came to class prepared with gloves, dissection kit, lab coat, instructions, and a ton of anxiety.
I got to class about 15 minutes before my lab group so that I could see how I reacted in private. I opened the double doors and entered the lab full of cadavers in rank and file on metal tables. The smell of formalin and antifreeze assaulted my nose and I walked through the room to my assigned body. I pulled back the plastic and muslin, gagged once, and began my dissection.
I had no idea that first day how important that lab would become to my life.
Class by class, I learned more and more about the human body and uncovered its secrets. Soon the weirdness faded and the magic took over. I spent hours in the lab outside of class studying and teaching my fellow classmates. The anatomy lab woke me up and I found a new passion. Did you know that you have a tiny pulley system in your eye? Or that you have a pressure and chemical receptor in your neck? These facts and many more bring to light the incredibly intelligent design of the human body. I was hooked.
After completing my coursework in Anatomy, I took a job working as a professional dissector in the lab- dissecting the teaching body one step ahead of the class. I took up anatomical drawing. I loved integrating my anatomy with my chiropractic and adjusting skills. Even today, when I lay my hands on a patient, I can see the anatomy beneath my hands, guiding my touch and fine tuning my patient care.
Through tutoring I got to share my passion for anatomy with other students and pass along knowledge in a way that makes it come alive. From the student struggling in class, to those wanting a review before taking board exams, teaching others forced me to be better than average and hone my skills. I even became a guide for “Tours of the Body”- a program where nursing students, massage therapy students, and even future barbers are given the opportunity to visit the cadaver lab and bring book learning to life. In the anatomy lab, I found my home in chiropractic school and a lifelong obsession.
During the three and a half years that I worked in the anatomy lab, I worked on upwards of 30 cadavers and- as cliché as it sounds- we are all unique and individual snowflakes. Nerves take paths that aren’t in the books, we find muscles that aren’t supposed to be there or search in vain for a blood vessel that doesn’t exist in that body. Some of these are so common they are considered a normal abnormality. This is much to the chagrin of the studying anatomist… For example, in about 17% of the population the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels from your pelvis all the way to your big toe, pierces a muscle instead of diving underneath. If that muscle spasms… presto! Sciatica. In addition, new anatomical findings are still being made. While I was in school, a fellow prosector made an anatomical discovery that is now published in scholarly journals and in the new Gray’s Anatomy (no, not the TV show).
Dissection is an art form- much like sculpture. Its goal is to uncover and reveal the structures of the body hidden away beneath skin and tissue. These bones, organs, and muscles tell the story of a life. What kind of work did this person do? Did they smoke? Have children? Work with their hands? Through patient study, Gross anatomy becomes less gross. It becomes fascinating. While not everyone has access to an anatomy lab, I feel that it was one of the most important experiences of my education and I will take its lessons with me always.
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