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Life Medical School Medicine

The Truth About Anatomy Lab

Before reading this post, please take time to review my disclaimer here.
If I had to pick a theme to encompass this semester thus far, the theme would be time. What time is it? What time do we have to be there? ? When can we stop studyingHow much time left on the exam? How long have we been studying? Where has the time gone? How much time is that meeting? Time, time, time. There’s never enough of it, but I’m always ready for whatever-it-is to be over.
Speaking of which, I have neither the time to write this, nor the amount of sleep I require, but I think I need to say it.
Simply because it bothers me so much, I feel like I have brought up the fact of having no time to reflect at least a couple times on this blog. Where it bothers me most though, is anatomy. I don’t have the time to be bothered though.
We were told to be grateful for the gifts of these donors’ bodies. We were told strict rules of how we would show that respect. (No cell phones in the lab, no pictures, be courteous, be mature, don’t take body parts, etc.) Some of us have even had cadaver labs before. Let me say this though, having now done both. Medical school cadaver lab anatomy is nothing like undergraduate cadaver lab anatomy. Do I feel more prepared having taken undergrad anatomy? Maybe I was more prepared on the first day of school, for words like “inferior” and “malleolus” to pop up. Maybe. I may remember some superficial muscles from anatomy 3 years ago. Rarely has this been true. I got my feet wet handling a dead body. Barely. (We shared two bodies with about 100 students.) Still, I don’t feel like I was prepared for the semester in store. Not really at all.
Some days it doesn’t bother me at all. I go in, do my work, chatting and laughing and focusing on the anatomy and other things and then I get out, and go get my dinner and go back to studying.
Some days I do not want to go in there. Not at all. Some days I just can’t find it in me to touch the bodies or talk or even think about anatomy. Because some days, it really just feels wrong. Honestly, I don’t even know how to deal with it. And even worse, I think a lot of people really aren’t dealing with it at all. It’s just become something we have to do.  We have to do it for a lot of reasons- because we have to learn it, and we were told to do it by our instructors; we’ve even been told that it’s a noble pursuit. Unfortunately, the severity of it gets ignored in the name of duty sometimes.
I feel like I’m doing something straight out of a concentration camp somedays and nobody has told me how to deal with it!
I’ll even go so far as to admit to ignoring the fact that they were humans at all. The smallest details sober me up though. I went to another group’s table and saw that their cadaver’s legs, (skin still on) were peeling like a sunburn. Something I don’t have to learn and not at all relevant to this anatomy unit, startled me and reminded me that her skin gets dry and flaky just like mine. We are humans. And one of us is cutting the other up.
I know how terribly fibrous and tedious it is to pluck through the connective tissue of the back of a human neck. I know the best technique to skin a human stomach- and leave the fat on- in less than an hour. I know the different texture of cutting through the human heart pericardium. I’ve heard the sound of a human tendon peeling off of bone, of a human sacrum being sawed through. Of flinging human fat into a bucket. I’ve had a neck ache from cutting on a human body for too long. I’ve wiped my forehead with the back of my glove, only to find that I’m wiping my forehead with the fatty “grease” of another human being. I’ve gone home with my cadaver’s armpit hair stuck to my shirt, found flecked bits of human tissue in my hair, in my scrub pockets, on my body. Each and every human body in that room has a distinct smell. We’ve made up names for them. Some nice, some not. The women’s hair on their heads is shaved. There is poop still in their intestines, though it doesn’t always stay there.
Are you catching my drift? I want to scream, “None of this is normal, or even OKAY!” Its not healing, its not easy; its ugly and its dehumanizing. These are opposites of what I’m trying to do here!!!
But for all the terrible, disgusting things I have beheld in that horrid lab that I hate with a passion, there is good. There is always good.
I have physically seen human organ cancers and surgical alterations and held a human gallstone, and a human ovary, and a human kidney in my hands. I have learned and traced and touched and owned the knowledge for myself what is in the human body. The depths and awe and intricacy and straight up crazy things it has to teach us. I felt the juicy, soft texture of a lung and looked inside a heart. I know the shape of each vertebrae and why its like that. I got elbows deep into the spinal cord and saw straight down a trachea into the lung. I’ve traced the ureter from its beginning in the bladder and out of the body. I follow the arteries to each and every place the hearts pump their blood- their sizes give away their importance. I’ve palpated a lymph node filled with disease and one that was healthy and smooth like a pinto bean. I’ve compared sizes of prostates to other bodies and looked at inflated bladders and black lungs and liver cancer.
We laugh and joke and play and gosh darn it, we get every last thing on our list done because its what we have to do and we are medical students.
If I choose to donate my body to a donor program I wonder what the students will say. What will they speculate about my life, my scars, my abnormalities. What will my body tell them? The truth is, a cadaver tells very little about what really mattered in their life. Would they have ever known or cared to know if their hepatic portal vein was much larger than normal? No.
Though I find it incredibly skewed that I know so much about my cadaver’s insides without knowing them personally, I know their anatomy- the health and diseased states of it. They’ve taught me a lot and I won’t let it go to waste. Cancer is ugly and surgeries leave gruesome scars. Palpation is a key tool I will always have in my hands. Variations are numerous- no body is the same. These are things they have taught me about patient care even though I wasn’t able to do anything but cut them.
They’ve taught me the depth and beauty and intricacy of the human body designed by God. They showed  me the beautiful mess that it is and allowed me to touch it and see it outside of a textbook. They’ve left me amazed, wowed, grossed out and “oh cool!”ed.
The truth about anatomy lab isn’t spoken about much. I certainly didn’t know what went on. A lot of it is unavoidable, and no one is completely innocent or at fault. It’s going to be messy and gruesome and uncomfortable. I think the point of it is to get the most education out of it that you can- both didactically and emotionally. Gratefulness, always. I now think donating my body would be a great sacrifice, one I am not sure I can stomach.
If anyone is asking me, though, I think it can be handled more gracefully by medical schools and medical students alike. My class isn’t particularly keen on mamby pamby feelings chats because we are so busy, but I think a candid briefing before anatomy starts and a debriefing after the semester would be helpful for us as future physicians. What we are called to do is heal and humanize and what anatomy lab is right now, is anything but.

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Life Lists Medical School

10 Things Vol. 4

10 Things I Wasn’t Expecting From Medical School
Some bad some good.

1) Complete and utter mental exhaustion. I used to be a mad-crazy over-analyst of all conversations, thoughts, interactions, and observations of myself and people around me. Now, I study. When I’m not studying, I’m sleeping or thinking about studying. Which means I don’t have time for self-awareness or reflection.
2) How much information can be shoved into the brain. I’ve always been taught that the brain has an infinite hard drive and I never thought I would be able to learn this much more and still know nothing at all.
3) (See #2) How much I still don’t know. It always amazes me. Never-ending wealth in every single facet of biological knowledge. Most of which is still being discovered.
4) Still not feeling worthy. Do I feel like a doctor? No. Do I feel like a future doctor? No. Do I know what I’m doing? No. Do I dance around to Taylor Swift, pick my split ends, fall asleep in class, and hug my mommy and daddy each day? Yes. Is that something I thought future doctors would do? No. Are these things that the medical professionals of tomorrow are doing while in medical school? Yes. I am still in disbelief, I still think real doctors are these incredible put-together geniuses. I’ll walk around school sometimes and pinch myself, and ask my study buddy, “Are we really going to be doctors someday?” Yes.
5) A hatred of Anatomy. I liked anatomy in undergrad, we even had cadavers. It was one of my favorite classes. Now, I dread it. It is the bane of my existence. Seriously, impossible amounts of information, structures, clinical relevances, and all the intermingled relationships of everything ends up becoming a complete mess in my head.
6) How much I miss doing nothing. It would be nice to lay on the floor for a while and just do nothing. To not need to sleep, eat, or study would just be amazing.
7) How much fun I’m having. Its really hard for me to study without anyone around. Just having people sit with me studying while I study makes it feel more like hanging out. It would be hard to be at school so dang much if I didn’t enjoy seeing my friends up here so much too.
8) School pride. Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t give a rip about college football, and I don’t particularly like orange and black together. But I’ll defend this school- and my class- to the ground. I maybe went to one high school football game in my day, and really didn’t care what went on at OBU because I was so busy. But here it feels different. Maybe its the higher level of education and it just feels more elite. I really feel like we’re just the best, and its something special we have at OSU. The experience. The community environment. All of it. I love it.
9) I really didn’t expect to become unable to talk about subjects other than school for more than two minutes. Literally, someone should time me. The lady at JC Penney? Yeah she knows I go to medical school. I text old friends and suddenly I’m talking about anatomy exam scores. I don’t mean to do it and its not braggy. There is just nothing else I know or do or understand anymore.
10) Running. I can’t do it every day. I just can’t. I started out all gung-ho and motivated had high hopes for running 30 miles a week and now I’m either too tired or too behind. Oh so chronically behind! It sucks real bad too because I’m running a half marathon in a month and haven’t run more than 12 miles a week. Oops.

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Errybody loves dat OMM.

 

Categories
Lists Medical School

10 Things Vol. 3

10 Things that have changed since medical school.
1) The amount of sleep I get- Pretty obvious; I like my sleep. Now, I don’t get so much. First I get cranky, then I just fall asleep in random places (like class), then I wake up and I’m slap happy. Then I’m grumpy again. So I give in and nap. Then I hate my life because I’m so behind. Rinse and repeat.
2) The amount of caffeine I consume- I used to be an occasional coffee drinker. And every once in a while, I would crave soda. Now I’m flooding myself with coffee at least twice a day and I always want pop! Its not like it makes me feel better, either. I just need SOMETHING to give me any kind of pep most days. Caffeine is not without its side effects, friends. Acne, heartburn, poorer sleep, inflammation. I get it all. Really just the junk food in general has me feeling like a big blob of blah. Chips, sugary goods, and frozen things that you microwave are easiest to come by and it makes my tummy hurt.
3) The camaraderie- It wasn’t until senior year at OBU that us science majors got into the nitty gritty and bonded as friends and as a group even though most of us didn’t hang out outside of class. In medical school, though, one of the things we came into quick is togetherness. Its not like I talk to everyone everyday, but everyone is approachable and friendly, helpful and nice. Even if we never hang out, there’s always someone to chat with and complain about the lecture to in the computer lab or student lounge. Plus, out class Facebook group has saved my life once or twice. My classmates are the bomb. Just the best and brightest and I can’t believe I get to be among them.
4) The level of complication- Everything is sort of simplified now. There’s no time to worry about silly stuff. It’s either studying time or relaxation time. I take both very seriously.
5) My reliance on other people- Particularly my parents. I liked to pretend I was pretty independent and self-sufficient before I started medical school. But now, no way. I hate to admit it, but its the dang truth; a secret to a lot of how I’m getting through is because of my parents. My mom brings me food, wakes me up in the morning, picks up my medicine, etc. It takes a lot of planning on her part to take care of logistics for me so I can just try to not rip my hair out focus on school during the day.
6) The amount of people I touch- I’m affectionate, don’t get me wrong, but before medical school, it was only a few select people. Family and close friends. Now, I’ll grab whoever, wherever, and palpate their PSIS, ask to translate their cervicals, and volunteer my own “Woah feel my iliac crest!” We are a touchy bunch and its not unusual for classmates to rub my shoulders as they pass by me in class. We’re nice like that.
7) Running- Unfortunately my running is suffering. Sweet naive little me before anatomy started thought I had everything under control, getting my first 8 mile run in for my half marathon training. Then anatomy hit me hard and was like “HAHA you arrogant, silly girl. No running for you” There are several marathoners in medical school and I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. How?! How are they doing this?! Now I stare longingly into the gym and just take my scrub-wearing self into the anatomy lab.
8) Disbelief at the End of the Day- Every day. I make it home. While I get ready for bed and just think about the vast amounts of information I’m shoving in. I cannot believe how much I’m learning. I can’t believe I’ve made it through 7 weeks of medical school, or even just finishing one more day. I still can’t believe I got in, or that I’m really going to be a doctor at the end of this. You look at all the lectures they give you each week and you’re like, “I can’t learn all this! It literally impossible.” And then the whole week zooms by and you did it. You’ve really forced that much more into your head somehow and its just amazing.
9) My obsession with EVERY. SINGLE. LAST. POINT.- One time in undergrad, I asked my organic professor for a point back on a quiz. I had him on a technicality and had never gotten a 10/10 on his quizzes. He even admitted I was right. So, sitting at a 9/10, I asked him if he was gonna give me the point back. “Really?” he said. As in “Really, you’re gonna make me log in and change your grade over this one point?!”
Well, I learned my lesson and never made a big deal of it again- though I am still a bit bitter. But now, oh man!, I deserve every single last point I get and you bet your sweet little keister I will fight for every single point. Something about medical school feels like it matters more and so I’ll fight tooth and nail to know this stuff and be able to PROVE I know it on the tests. It’s just more important to me now.
10) Nervous habits- If I had nervous energy before medical school, let’s multiply it by ten now. I’ve always been a little high strung. I tap my feet and pens and chew gum and bite my nails again, and pick my skin and my face and my hangnails. I pick my split ends and pop my knuckles and just general. Also, just another weird thing, it has me doing is obsessively wanting to pick EVERY. LAST. BIT. of skin and fat and fascia off of my cadaver. Just absolutely meticulously. I could sit in there all day trying to satiate this desire to completely clean him off down to the structures we need. Ok, have I creeped everyone out now? I have problems… OCD maybe. That means its time to quit.
Peace out cub scouts.
 

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Life Lists Medical School

#Medschoolprobs

Things got a whole lot more difficult this week. Honeymoon phase = definitely OVER.
One of the things I most wanted to do this blog for was to give an honest depiction of what medical school is like, and I can’t do that without sharing the bad parts too.
The title of this post is med school probe for two reasons:
1) These aren’t really problems that apply anywhere else in life.
2) Because I know that they aren’t really that big of problems. I would much rather have these problems than have a problem like oh, NOT being in medical school. Read: I still love what I’m doing. 🙂
My problems- NOT a comprehensive list!
Anatomy has begun. I liked to think that my expectations were realistic. I expected it to be a continuation of my love affair with the human body- albeit a difficult one. But it has not been that so far. It has been a stressful whirlwind of not having a clue what is going on. I really almost cried after the first lecture. What I heard during the lecture was “blah blah blah, scapula, blah blah, acromion!” And then our clicker quiz questions popped up like ” What nerve innervates trapezius and where does it originate and what germ layer is it derived from and what can you not do when this muscle is crapped out and what do you do if shot in such and such artery?” Okay, that was an exaggeration but that is what it felt like.
I was all
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“I’m sorry what? Is this a joke? Was I supposed to read something? Did I miss four weeks of class without knowing it? Am I stupid? Was this a mistake? Should I drop out before I gain anymore stress weight?”
Panic took hold and I lost the rest of my motivation to pay attention that day because its worthless if I haven’t looked at it myself first. I started thinking
“This is what your life is like now.”
I woke up with a sore throat the other day and thought, “I don’t have time to be sick.” When would I go see a doctor?
I get no fewer than 665 emails everyday telling me more things I have to do and more places I have to be.
I ate cold oatmeal for lunch.
I can’t remember what I studied yesterday.
I legitimately have right arm pain from writing so much.
I’m writing this blog through talk to text on my drive home. (Do not try at home)
Sleeping in is 7:30.
Getting to bed early is 1AM.
Peeling fat off a muscle is surprisingly soothing.
I’m too tired to study, but too behind to sleep.
They tell us to eat right, take breaks, get 7 hours of sleep (because let’s not be ridiculous with 8), don’t drink caffeine, exercise, and take time for family- but don’t forget to study and know everything at all times.
Me time is either sitting down to eat a snack without a book in front of me, or- if I’m really lucky- run 4 miles.
Naps are few and far between and I wake up feeling guilty and stressed out.
I walk to the bathroom at school, passing all the groups study rooms thinking, “oh my gosh all these people are studying right now and I’m peeing, I’m so far behind!!”
I only shower when absolutely necessary.
Yesterday I got to go outside for 2 minutes BEFORE dark to get something out of my car between classes. So that was cool.
I didn’t do well on my test we took this week after studying all Labor Day weekend. 🙁
Everything that smells bad to me, now smells like cadaver.
I keep shopping online to hide my feelings.
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It’s exhausting and hard and nothing seems to be paying off immediately, especially since all I feel like I have learned is about how NOT to study. I find solace in my classmates though, who all seem to be struggling with the same things as me. Sigh. Glad I got some of that off my chest. I’ll be okay.
 

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Life Lists Medical School

10 Things Vol. 2

1. Test tomorrow. So yeah, I should be studying.
2. This week should be a little lighter in terms of Biomedical foundations material. Its a short week and anatomy is starting, so we only have 5 BMF lectures.
3. ANATOMY IS STARTING. I loved anatomy in undergrad so I hope my love stays strong and doesn’t turn to resentment. Humans are so neat, guys.
4. I get to have lunch with my senior (as in old people) mentor. This will be our first time meeting them. We will have a couple of assignments with them throughout this semester. We get to take a personal history and a medical history. I hope mine is precious and not gross.
5. Running is going great. I didn’t expect to rely on it as much I do. Mostly because when I was in undergrad, running sort of fell by the wayside. Now, after a solid two months of 5-7 days a week, I can feel at the end of the day when I’m all amped and ready to run. The rule is, if I have time to think about getting a run in, I run.
6. My study buddy has been gone for labor day weekend and I really feel the struggle without her. Not being able to talk things out has me tweaking so I don’t think this test will be as good as the first two.
7. There’s a lot of life in medical school. If any of my posts have deterred you from pursuing a future in medicine, that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Its fun and ultimately its going to be great and worth it, if its what you want to do.
8. I think what has helped me the most with anxiety (test anxiety and otherwise) is the amount of “busy” I’m taking on. I didn’t know what busy was. Like I said, I’m either studying, or about to study. I don’t have time to think about what I’m not doing because I’m always doing something or making progress towards being able to do something.
9. I drink a lot of water. At least two liters a day. I feel better when I do. Plus, filling up my water bottle and peeing in between lectures and as mini study breaks keep me from getting too comfortable and falling asleep.
10. Study, study, school’s your buddy!

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Medical School Products

Adventures in Buying Scrubs

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It’s overwhelming how many types of scrubs there are. Colors and sizes and materials and brands and pockets and necklines. I sort of thought they were all the same. Isn’t one of the purposes of scrubs to be in standardized uniform? I definitely wasn’t looking for anything fancy. I mostly need plain jane scrubs that are gonna get nasty in cadaver lab. However, other students at my school are suggesting that most people wear scrubs to class on a pretty regular basis so I decided to get more than one or two pairs to start off with.  No matter what size I tried on, the drawstrings have to be pulled up to my head and cinched down, and the leg holes are as wide around as tree trunks.  The shirt sleeves end at my elbows. I tried some on
Nothing has made me feel more like I’m playing dress up for medical school more than trying on scrubs and finding out the XXS still swallows me. I felt like a little kid. I’m not even that tiny. I usually wear a sm (2/4) in shirts and size small athletic shorts, so I was thinking it would be similar. Here I was thinking I was growing up and becoming a modern woman, buying black pumps and slacks. So, thank you scrubs. It was a humbling experience. At least my white coat makes me feel accomplished.
So far I like Landau, Cherokee, and Med Couture the best! I got solid colors- navy, light blue, jade green, and pinkish purplish color!