Fall Arrives in Ann ArborThursday, October 2nd, 2008 by Lindsay Brown
Simply put, the past few weeks have been mentally and physically exhausting—and incredibly rewarding. I guess you could say that I finally feel like a bona fide medical student. We’ve just finished our first big unit, Cells and Tissues, which is essentially, I have discovered, a nice euphemism for a four week intensive crash course in biochemistry and cell physiology. I found the unit vastly challenging and in the end was simply amazed by the amount of material my classmates and I learned in four weeks. I am now familiar with how proteins are made, targeted, and channeled to specific organelles within a cell; I can recognize the permanent and transient components of the basement membrane of a cell on an electron micrograph; and understand the actions, innervations, and routes of blood supply to the muscles of the back and chest. Needless to say, this information is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to all we will learn in the weeks and years to come, which is in itself an exciting thought.
The start to anatomy lab was kicked off a few weeks ago with Anatomical Donations Memorial Service run by Dr. Gest, our head anatomy professor. The service was a beautiful and moving event held at Washtenog Memorial Park. All of the first and second year medical students as well as the loved ones of the anatomical donors were in attendance. A few second year students gave speeches reflecting upon their own first year anatomy lab experiences, from which I’d like to share a few excerpts:
“No collection of words in a dusty book can convey the beating of a heart. No picture can give the sheer depth and delicate mechanism of the human body. We approach your loved ones with awe at their embodiment of the subject we love, and we marvel at their giving one of their greatest and most personal possessions, their body, into our care. They gave this gift without expectation of personal reward. They gave it solely for the benefit of their community. Through their bodies, they show us their loves and fears. From the callused hands of the lifelong gardener to the supple limbs of a dancer to the suffering and pain that comes with disease in all its forms, your relatives have taken us into the most intimate parts of their lives and we, in turn, have taken them into our own. As we go forward into medicine, accumulating knowledge and finding our place within the field, they will go with us. … So as we sit here today, know that the gift your family has given does not end beneath this tent or within the confines of the anatomy lab but it lives on in these doctors: in every person they treat, in every cure they develop, and in every student they train to combat the diseases of the next generation – to continue the promise of hope and life that medicine can provide.“
“My grandmother had the most beautiful hands – nails well pared and glossed with a neutral shade, long fine fingers, skin slightly dappled and not so much wrinkled as softened with age, as if a fine layer of down lay just beneath the surface. Those hands really had no right to be so soft, as they had been well used during my grandmother’s life. Those hands had dug into the sands of Egypt in search of clues to the past, as my grandmother was an archeologist at a time when few women reached higher education. Those hands changed the diapers, bandaged the knees, and shook more than a few fingers at the three rambunctious sons my grandmother raised, one of whom is my father. Those hands even helped build the house in which my father grew up. And when it came time for my grandmother to pass away, those hands did not cease in their good works, as like so many of your loved ones, my grandmother donated her body to medical education. I thought about my grandmother often as I sat with my donor last year, and she was particularly on my mind when we studied the hands. The hands are difficult to study, not only because they are so personal, but also because they are incredibly intricate. The simple act of holding a child takes an amazing amount of coordination between a myriad of muscles, tendons, vessels, and nerves. It would have been impossible to understand how a hand functions without the help of our donors. And as challenging as it was, it was also comforting, because I realized how my grandmother’s lovely hands continued to create beautiful acts in the world. You see, the hands of every donor are in our hands and in the hands of every rambunctious son who we help grow into a father, of every woman who we help to build her dreams, and of every grandmother who, with our care, is able hold her granddaughter lovingly in her lap. So I thank you today because I know the sacrifice you’re making and because I also know what a difference that sacrifice has made in my life, in the lives of my fellow medical students, and in the life of every person to whom we will have the honor of offering a helping hand. “
With Cells and Tissues behind us, this week we began our first week of Clinical Foundations of Medicine, a series of mini-units scattered throughout the year during which we are trained in clinical skills. We had a chance to hone our patient interview skills, discuss end of life care, were exposed to the principles of health economics, and became familiar with the practice of integrative medicine. The module also included a number of assigned shadowing experiences at health care facilities in the greater Ann Arbor community. My personal assignments included shadowing UMMS grad Dr. Lev Linkner at his integrative medicine practice here in Ann Arbor, a nutritionist at the Washtenaw County Health Department’s WIC program, and a senior citizen in her home in Chelsea. Next week, we begin our third unit, Musculoskeletal. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing about the shadowing experiences of my peers in tomorrow’s small group reflections, Friday’s Med/Law mixer, and, of course, this weekend’s football game against Illinois.