Friday, October 14, 2005


So I thought I would christen my blog with some random tales from medical school. They'll be short and sweet, and may contain gratuitous gross anatomy references (not for the faint of heart).

  • Our class has a gentleman whom I shall refer to as "The Cropduster". He is a fairly obese young man with an apparently chronic gastrointestinal disorder (he farts all the time). The odor of his flatulence was such that his own gross anatomy tankmates told him "if you're going to do that, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE." So, about halfway through the semester, Cropduster would wander the 7 tanks of the D section, admiring bodies and dissections here and there, and allowing his pungence to overtake the unsuspecting. I swear, the stench of his farts was such that one day, all 5 of us at my tank fell silent in mid-conversation (we were usually extremely loud) and stayed that way for several minutes, as we were all afraid to open our mouths due to the smell. You know a fart is bad when it overpowers the subtle scent of cadaver.
  • One of my most vivid memories of gross lab was from the day we hemisected the pelvis. To the uninitiated, this means cutting inward from the hip to the navel, then down through the perineum, removing an entire leg from the hip down. Our sophisticated removal tool was a hacksaw. My tankmate FunnyGuy was hungover, and the only one of us with the balls to volunteer for the job. When the saw finally made it all the way through B's skin, we were left with a very dirty leg. Other tanks were washing their legs in the sink, so I carried a human leg to the sink, rinsed it off thoroughly, and carried it back. We did things to our cadavers in anatomy lab that the lay population would be arrested for.
  • Gross anatomy lab had an unexpected side effect: for some reason, nothing stimulated my appetite like working in the lab. Someone told me formaldehyde increases the appetite. I don't know, but I was always STARVING when I left the lab. Then, also, we found ourselves occasionally comparing our cadaver's flesh to cuts of meat: ribs, wings, etc. God help me, but I had never wanted BBQ ribs so badly in my life as when we dissected the thoracic cavity.
  • Eli at Ah Yes, Medical School has a fabulous post on hypertalkers. Our class is almost entirely the opposite in actual lectures. Usually, a lecturer will ask "Do you have any questions?" at the end of a lecture, only to be greeted with PGA golf course silence. However, we do have one exception. Let me call him "Kiss-Up". KU decided to be the "tech guy" for our class, racing to the front whenever something went wrong with the portable mikes, the laser pointer, or the computer hookup for the PowerPoint slides. At first, he fulfilled his duties with disgusting enthusiasm, licking a little ass on the lecturer while he replaced batteries, turned off lights, etc. After a while, though, he grew weary of his duties, preferring to play computer games on his laptop (he sits in the front row, so everyone can see that he's playing games during lecture). He'll get so absorbed in his games that the batteries will go out, the lecturer will go silent, and nearly 100 people (out of 205) start hollering "[Kiss-Up]!!!" He's the same guy who got up and blatantly moved away when the AIDS patient came to class to talk about life with HIV. He's the same guy who was practicing taking a blood pressure on my friend, and left the cuff inflated for 5 minutes, while my friend watched his arm turning blue. KU also asked out about half the girls in the class during the first few weeks. When one girl turned down his invitation to hear the Star Wars theme music played by the Symphony due to her status as an engaged woman, he became outraged and demanded to see her ring. I like to add, at this stage in this story, that 1) it was gross anatomy day, so she wasn't wearing her enormous ring, and 2) this was going on in the middle of a lecture. This same fine upstanding citizen gets through with tests early and CLICKS his mechanical pencil lead down, SLAMS his seat back, stretches and yawns, then BANGS the chair in, flutters his papers around, and finally proceeds to the front to turn in his test. This guy is going to be your future doctor, people. We're all praying he hears the call of the pathology lab when choosing a residency.
  • We had a class argument one day in a lecture about "Asking Religious Questions in the History and Physical Exam". If this wasn't doomed to failure at the get-go, the lecturer was a super-nice lady, far too nice to halt an argument in its tracks. What was the argument? Whether a doctor should witness to his/her patients. By witness, I do mean "sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior" to the patients. We had one gentleman who heatedly claimed his right as a spiritual healer, not only a physical healer, who said he would surely tell his patients about God. It got so out of hand that the course director added a question to the final exam: "True/False: It is appropriate to share unsolicited personal religious beliefs with a patient during a visit" (hint: the answer is false). Other members of the class couldn't figure out why a patient might get nervous if, while waiting to enter the operating room (OR, for those who watch "ER"), a doctor asks if he might pray with the patient prior to surgery. Mind you, this is a patient with whom religion has never been discussed. "But how could that possibly offend anyone of Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/atheist beliefs?" Also your future doctors, people.
  • We were all disappointed to learn one day that the famed G spot does not exist, according to a histology instructor. Apparently, G spot stimulation produces friction in the urethra, which is actually painful but interpreted as pleasure (similar to chili, I suppose). I had to conclude, based on personal experience, that the lecturer had never experienced said stimulation and/or orgasm from the G spot, or she would never have been able to say this while keeping a straight face.
  • We were also saddened to learn that the Y chromosome is a "genetic wasteland" full of "junk DNA". The only thing the Y chromosome does is make an XY zygote a male. It also carries the genes to give a man hairy ears. That was an exam question.

So much of what happens in med school can be so funny, but the outside world is either unamused or appalled. I will vent later about my feelings about the first year of medical school and how utterly useless it is. A big milestone of the first year is gross anatomy, where they expect us to come to terms with death. Most of us do it with humor. Our cadaver's "name" was B, and we decided that she liked to play bridge with the other cadavers when no one was looking. How else do you forget that your cadaver died younger than all of your living grandparents? When we rolled her over onto her back after the first lab, and discovered that she'd had a double radical mastectomy (her card said "60 year old female, breast cancer, brain metastasis, multiple organ failure"), we had to joke about having no boobs, how lucky she was to have no breasts in her way, and make fun of other tanks with random breasts floating around in their water. Otherwise, it was too sad. I think we learn to detach too far. At what point in the middle is safe, safe from depression at the death and tragedy but also safe from the coldness?

To save the philosophy for another entry, one more quickie humorous moment: a classmate found an article for PBL about using different sexual positions to resume an active sex life following an MI (heart attack). You can find the abstract here. Of course, I should add that I find it amusing that such an article was funded and written, NOT the fact that the patient in the case was concerned about her sex life. Another of my classmates was decidedly amused that a 50-year-old woman, post-MI, would be concerned about her sexual abilities. Wow, man, I hope you are never 50 years old and wanting to get laid. Of course, in his mind, I suppose it's different, since guys have Viagra, and nobody wants to sleep with 50-year-old women. No, I'm not bitter. Not at all.

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