Cadaverish Tales

tumblr_n94hlvcFOs1tpw2ero1_1280It’s been a long time since med school dissection, and I must say I never really enjoyed it. I appreciated it, sure; but just like I rarely enjoy surgery, I rarely enjoyed dissection. It’s something that just WAS.

I had a lot of thoughts about our cadavers though. I wished we had a dedication ceremony, as many med schools abroad have. Our professor’s reasoning was “there are too many religions to accommodate”, but I thought that was a silly excuse because whoever said that a dedication ceremony had to be religious at all?

When we teamed up for dissection groups, we were told to ensure there was a male in each group to help with some of the “tougher” work. Of course, some of us disagreed with such old-fashioned suggestions and teamed up in all-girl group anyways.

One day we had to work on the face, including dissecting around the mandible and eventually removing it. I don’t know why we had to remove the mandible, because I didn’t pay too much attention.

[I’m fairly convinced that they made us do a whole lot of unnecessary things to make it easier for whomever when they boiled everything down to the bone for our “bags o’ bones.”]

Many ligaments attach to the mandible – the lateral ligament, stylomandibular ligament, sphenomandibular ligament, capsular ligament – I totally had to look them all up just now and I’m still confused. The sole purpose of these ligaments is to make it difficult for medical students to dissect. (And something about defining the limits of movement.)

The point is that it was hard to get the mandibles out of our cadavers and we were all hacking like maniacs at the ligaments we had so painstakingly exposed. At the end some prying was required, which was fairly easy for those of us with rugby jocks in our groups. Less easy for the group of girls at the table opposite ours.

They pulled and strained and none of us payed much attention to them until their mandible went flying across the room and landed on the floor next to me, where I was taking a reading break. Not reading an anatomy text, I assure you.

Well. At least it didn’t land ON me.

Tell me! Did you enjoy anatomy labs? Or were you like me, easily fascinated and then easily bored?


  1. The Rider says:

    Fortunately no cadavers in the Theology Faculty… I think… Although some Greek lecturers could come close…

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Hah! Don’t let them see that 😛

  2. Funny, a tad gruesome but cool

  3. harveylisam says:

    Ugh, I hated the anatomy lab – and we didn’t even have to do any of our own dissections! Give me clinical work any day.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      REALLY?! Who did your dissections? We always did our own dissections (and the postgrad students used to laugh at our shoddy technique); then the Occupational/Physcial/Speech/Dietetic Therapy students would study from the cadavers we had dissected.

      1. harveylisam says:

        I think they hired some med students during the summer to do dissections.

      2. barefootmegz says:

        Now THAT’S a Summer job! 😛

  4. Believe it or not, a lot of medical innovation takes place in the cadaver lab, in addition to medical training. As a new attending, I learned how to place TVT and TOT (urogyn procedure) devices while practicing on cadavers. Many of the ENT procedures on temporal bone structures are taught through cadaver teaching. I remember a spine surgeon friend of mine took the to the gross lab (how romantic, right?) to show off how he was testing a prototype of a screw in development for a surgical device company. Many new instruments and techniques are vetted through this route.
    Yes, gross lab is truly gross, but I feel a very necessary step in medical education. There is talk of eliminating the “gross” part of gross anatomy and using holograms and other technology. My feelings are conflicted about this. There is something novel and important about this rite of passage.
    And, I agree with you, it is important to recognize the sacrifice people make in donating their bodies to this service.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      I completely agree. Although I hated gross lab for the most part, I wouldn’t have traded it in for anything. I know that many medical schools don’t even have access to cadavers, and I’m very glad that I got to make my first incision on a cadaver rather than on a living being!
      I think the hologram technology is cool, but I would only ever want it as an adjuvant to cadavers, rather than a replacement.

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