Tag Archives: anatomy

Opposed to Adipose

There are many scholastic benefits to dissecting a cadaver. But I’ll leave that for another day. For me, the greatest and simplest lesson from the gross anatomy lab experience is this: obesity will kill you.

From day one of lab, it was evident that adipose tissue (body fat) can accumulate almost everywhere and creates a myriad of problems. It invests every crevasse of the body: from your cheeks to your feet. It can get everywhere and anywhere. I wasn’t surprised that there was an unhealthy amount of fat on the anterior wall of our cadaver’s abdomen. I wasn’t even surprised that we had to dig through a thick layer of fat to expose the coronary circulation on our cadaver’s heart, which plainly suffered from cardiomegaly.

I was surprised to find that a thick layer of fat was on almost every abdominopelvic organ we extracted. The adipose tissue not only made every dissection session an arduous and painstaking process, it must have affected every body system when our cadaver was alive. Even if you only accounted for the fact that the fat abnormally distended every available fossa in the body, it’s pretty substantial.

As I said, if nothing else, it has made me more disciplined about working out. If I donate my body to science and it ends up in an academic cadaver lab, I don’t want to hear, “man, look at all that fat.”  Or, “there’s fat there? Well, what was I expecting?”

I want to hear, “man, this guy was so muscular and lean and attractive and rich!”



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Our Social Lives

Social life in physical therapy school is odd. I feel like I’ve known the people in my program for years. In reality, I just met them this summer.

My friends who are physical therapists warned me that PT school is like a black hole. You get lost in it. And it’s really hard to understand unless you’ve been through it yourself.

I’m in class with these people all day, every day. And when I’m not in class, I’m either studying with them or worrying about how I’m not studying with them. Even when we’re relaxing, we’re still talking about something funny that happened the other day in class or lab.  It sounds trite and stupid but it’s really hard to talk to normal people when you’ve been entrenched in this type of environment. This theory was very evident a few nights ago.

A group of us went out for a few drinks and significant others were invited. You know how sometimes you can really “hear” yourself talk when someone unfamiliar with the topic is around? A group of us were talking about dissecting the perineal region, and I realized how disgusting that sounded when I saw the look of suppressed, judgmental horror on a classmate’s wife’s face.

What? You’re not down with perineal skin and hair on your exam gloves?

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Today Was A Good Learning Day

Today, a lot of gross anatomy concepts clicked in my mind. Gross anatomy is a plethora of information. It is a steady sea flow of knowledge; when you’ve become accustomed to the force of one wave, the next comes crashing upon you.

Today, I feel like I’ve begun to master one wave. For example: all of the tributaries to the superior mesenteric vein and inferior mesenteric vein are part of the portal venous system. This makes sense because the liver acts as a filter for blood coming from the gastrointestinal area. Duh. I laugh at myself because it’s such a simple concept but it took me two days to actually realize that I’m being peppered with factoids pointing to the same thing — that the venous return in the mesentric veins ultimately drain through the liver. And it was really my first “ah ha!” moment in physical therapy school. Now that I have that overarching concept in my mind, it’s much easier to digest (see what I did there?) the details on that subject.

The only problem is that tomorrow we will be hit with even more information that requires a certain level of mastery, and then the day after that, and the one after. But maybe it’s the small victories that matter most.

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Formaldehyde Makes Me Hungry

I get super hungry after every cadaver lab session. In our normal schedule, the end of cadaver lab is the beginning of our lunch break. But even if I get out of the lab early, or if I’m in there in the evening after a long study session, formaldehyde makes me hungry.

It’s a weird sensation. You’re standing there amidst a sea of dead bodies, and all you can think of is how much you want a slab of ribs. It’s most confusing when the bonesaw is being used and you can smell burning muscle and adipose tissue. Talk about an omnivore’s dilemma…

In terms of learning, I don’t think it’s personally beneficial to have cadaver lab before lunch time. I can appreciate that the program directors want anatomy lecture early (while everyone’s minds are fresh), and then want practical implementation of that knowledge directly after. But some days I find myself so hungry that I just “want to get on with the damn dissection so I can eat.”

Today, unfortunately, was one of those days. Our cadaver lab sessions are patrolled by a mix of physicians, practicing professionals, and their teaching assistants. The physicians and other practitioners are excellent.  They show you exactly how to dissect your body, while sharing clinical knowledge and expertise that you can’t get from reading a textbook or looking at Netter’s. The teaching assistants are a mixed bag: they do more grunt work with dissection but each of them has a different opinion on what a hard-to-identify structure is, so oftentimes you’re left more confused. “That’s the accessory hemiazygous vein,”  one says. “No, that’s an intercostal vein,” another will overrule when asked for clarification independently.

The help my lab group has gotten has almost exclusively been from TA’s. Today, a former surgeon came over to assist us. It was great because he helped me understand all of the structures and tied clinical relevance into everything he was saying. But the downside was that the dissection took twice as long because he brought over another physician to confirm his diagnosis, due to one of the structures being abnormal. Then this retired surgeon brought over all of the TA’s for a mini-inservice. Then he called over some of the other  lab groups for more lengthy explanations.

So, it was great to have individualized clinical instruction. It’s something that I dreamed about before starting PT school: a freakin’ former surgeon walked me through a dissection for an hour. But at the same time my stomach was telling me, “Dude, we need to eat. Now!”

I know that it’s really short-sighted. From now on, I have to appreciate and absorb any knowledge that’s being imparted on me — no matter how much my daily needs make me want to hurry the session along.

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First Day of PT School!

The first day of physical therapy school is in the books. I was a bit anxious on the day before class but everything went fine once I got to school. The people in my program were approachable and friendly, I didn’t flunk out, and I managed to keep from spilling food on my pants. So chalk that up as a win.

The first day began with a few hours of clinical anatomy lecture. As expected, it hit us hard and fast. The amount of material was manageable only because I previewed the lecture notes prior to the session, and reviewed it again once I got back home. I don’t really want to think about what my mind will feel like after trying to absorb five straights days of this amount of information. The tired, worn cliche of “drinking water from a fire hydrant” will likely be no exaggeration. The lecture, itself, was very interesting and entertaining. The lecturer was very knowledgeable and had numerous clinical asides to the didactic information — a welcome change from what I was exposed to at community college. Quick tip though: do not drink two glasses of water and then chug coffee before a lecture, when the only way to exit the room would be to walk by the instructor. It was a struggle; I can only imagine the self-inflicted torture if I had actually drank from a hydrant.

Anatomy lab directly followed the lecture session. We didn’t dissect. Instead, we simply “met” and prepared our cadaver. I didn’t have time to feel hesitant about what I was doing, because we moved about our tasks so quickly. Apparently, if the skin and extremities became dry, making even simple incisions becomes very difficult. So our first day’s assignment was to prepare to keep the skin viable. We covered the face, hands and feet with vaseline. Then we wrapped those extremities in a moist, protective cloth. We also had to drain the body bag of excess formaldehyde and other fun, aromatic juices.

We then had a very short lunch and the rest of the afternoon was blocked off for physical therapy-specific sessions. This first afternoon centered on ethical and professional discussions that were geared towards getting everyone in the program familiar with each other.

The day boiled down to getting familiar with the flow, as we all collectively dipped our foot into the water. PT school is actually a lot like grade school: we all take classes together, we all eat lunch together, and we all have little lockers to put our coats and lunch boxes in. Except that everyone’s an unapologetic nerd that studies all the time. And everyone’s in good shape. And we’re all adults (I think).

I’m so glad to be here.

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