Elaborate (Or, In the Cadaver Lab)

via Daily Prompt: Elaborate

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In recent years, I have come to hear that many medical and nursing schools are moving to mannequins as ‘subjects’ for tools to teach anatomy to the students. I confess that I do not know the full extent of the truth to this; however, I am absolutely against it, as a mannequin, in my own opinion, does not show the elaborate work that is the human body – much less the true and natural differences between us all. My father, a retired pulmonologist, has always attested to the value of an actual cadaver lab – not a mannequin lab.

While in medical school Dad and his classmates had to ‘log’ a certain umber of hours in the cadaver lab, engaging in non-instructor-led studies. Exams would cover their independent work; thus, the students had to learn to dissect, identify parts, identify abnormalities and ailments, all along with the inner workings of the human body. Often, several students would go together in the late night hours, after classroom lecture hours, and visualize in a hands on fashion the elaborate systems.

On one late night, Dad inadvertently found himself alone at a moment in time that he did not realize that he was devoid of actual living, human company. He had become intrigued with a man that had passed from lung cancer and had subsequently donated his own body to Vanderbilt School of Medicine. This was approximately the time that Dad had decided on pulmonology as his specialty, as the lungs intrigued him, more so than the brain, or the digestive system, or the brain. Cardiology was a close second choice for him.

Suddenly, he heard a squeaking noise and a candy wrapper crackling about in the garbage can. His eyes followed the noise to the trash can, where he noticed the trash…AND the can….were actually moving. A quick glance at the clock directly above the trash can revealed that it was 2:30 a.m., and nobody else was in the lab except him. And the squeaking noise and the moving garbage…..it was time to go.  As he pushed the cadaver back into the freezer and headed to the door, and just as he was about to turn out the lights, the source of the squeaking and moving garbage revealed itself. It was a mouse that had made himself at home in the can, and was enjoying the residue of chocolate left in the wrapper of a Hershey’s bar. Without further hesitation, he left, making a note to himself to report the critter in the morning to the building secretary.

As Dad headed to his 1946 Chevy (well over 10 years old at this point), he recalled the garbage back at the apartment that he and my mother lived in. The building did not have a dumpster, which caused a conundrum: where to dispose of their own garbage. This time period was well before Arlo Guthrie and the Group W Bench. On a couple of recent occasions, he’d been caught by employees of places at Printer’s Alley, trying to utilize their dumpsters; they were having none of it. On the couple of occasions, he barely got away with utilizing restaurant dumpsters, as these were favorite spots for Nashville cops to cut some z’s while on duty.

At this point, being that it WAS after 2:30 in the morning, Dad needed an elaborate plan…….so, why not just run back to the Cadaver Lab? On the off chance somebody of authority should happen to come along, he could prove his identity as a student, and repeat the story of the mouse and the candy wrapper…….and tell them he was just being a conscientious student by emptying the trash from the cadaver lab…..a job that the janitor had so obviously been remiss in doing, evidenced by the presence of a critter eating the damn candy wrapper…….He clung to this reasoning for the next year and a half, until he graduated Suma Cum Laude from Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

As far as the mannequins now being used instead of actual cadavers, I would like to encourage universities to steer away from this practice. Mannequins are for fashion display. Not for teaching our up and coming clinicians the elaborate intricacies of the human body. We all entrust our bodies to these who are already practicing. I really prefer not to have a student who ‘learned’ on a mannequin. With all that said, maybe if more people donated their bodies to science……but that is another elaborate discussion.

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