sanguinemare

March 17, 2015

Match Week

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 3:44 pm
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My classmates with whom I entered medical school with are graduating this year.  Match Day is coming up at the end of the week, and it’s a highly charged atmosphere.  Yesterday was apparently when people found out whether they matched or not period, and my Facebook newsfeed was blown up with a ton of posts, both from med school friends here and around the country, about how happy and excited people were to have matched (though they won’t find out where they will end up until the Match Day Ceremony on Friday).  Lots of congratulatory statements and likes were passed around on Facebook – so much that a couple people posted in our private class page with memes to the effect haha.  It’s kind of a surreal feeling – that we’ve all been here for four years already, and that people who I still think of as classmates have gone through so much training already and are going to be official doctors soon.  To them, as well as to those who are unfortunate enough to be in SOAP (where one ends up in the week-long, stressful process of desperately trying to find a place to do residency at on of the remaining spots after finding out they did not match on Monday), I wish the best of luck.

In case you’d like to know a bit more about The Match, which is arguably the most important day of a medical student (even more-so than graduation day), here is one article that explains the gist of the process and how it’s become so much more competitive over the years, and if you’re interested, here’s another rather angry article about how The Match is not the best way to get into residency, from a graduating medical student last year, presumably after her own match.  It is true that the cost burden of the current system is quite high for seniors – at a recent talk, people mentioned how the average one spends on applications and the residency trail may be somewhere around $11,000, if I remember the number correctly, which is kind of on the ridiculous side.

In a way, it’s interesting that the concept of the Match is made such a big deal of over here, because that is standard practice in Asian countries (or at least for sure in Taiwan and I think China as well) all throughout every major school transition (elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, etc), but in America, where one’s individual choices leads to the promised land, I guess this is one of the few times one feels so very out of control of one’s life and future. I understand that feeling, especially when studying for Step 1 (and in the aftermath), when it finally hit me that one test score could determine my entire future career in a way that is not really readily alterable.  It’s a scary thought.

So in light of all of that, my sincere congratulations to all of my classmates and the graduating class of 2015 that have matched!  I’m glad you will be able to become the kind of doctor that you aspire to be. 🙂

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May 12, 2013

Countdown to Step 1 – 17 days left

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP,Step 1 — sanguinemare @ 12:27 am
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FINALLY!  Just finished with all of Pathoma whoot whoot!  Yeah, I got a little off schedule (no surprise at this point haha) so only just finished with Pathoma and haven’t reviewed the rest of FA yet.  Mainly there was a lot of stuff that happened yesterday that derailed me, and I’m barely recovering from it.

Basically, I got pretty distracted all morning after finding out I did terribly on the final paper/project for one of my graduate school classes this semester, and we were told to contact the professor if we had any questions before she posted the final grades today.  Since that final paper (which I worked pretty long hours on at the expense of Step 1 studying) was basically most of the class grade, and I felt the feedback docked me very heavily in multiple areas for the same issue which I felt was not applicable to my paper, I, for the first time in my life, “argued” with a teacher about a grade.   It was pretty stressful… I have never received such a low grade in my life for a paper, especially not one I actually spent hours/days trying to write.  After multiple e-mail exchanges in the morning that were less than assuring, we finally arranged for a time to do an online video chat in the afternoon since I am out of town for Step 1 studying.  Thankfully, once she was able to communicate her perspective, she was very understanding, and eventually accepted my explanations.  I get the feeling she had had high expectations for me, so when it wasn’t done as she’d expected, I perhaps got marked off a bit more heavily than I would have otherwise. She may have also thought I didn’t put in as much effort as I should have.  However, after I explained my reasoning behind why I wrote it the way I did, she understood that I did try hard on the paper and was willing to accept my explanations and change the grade.  Praise the Lord! (I checked it today and she even changed it higher than I’d hoped!  Thank you!)

So that was pretty emotional, and then there was someone who got very upset at an article I had posted up on another social media site (for very different reasons than why I posted it… in fact I am still unsure why that person read so much into certain specifics when it was mostly an opinion article on a different subject… oh well).  Anyway, after trying to write responses for that back and forth for the afternoon, I was quite out of sorts and had pretty much lost all motivation to study.  So studying-wise, yesterday I think I did a neuro block in the morning but only went through about 1/4 of the answers, and tried to get finished on Pathoma for Repro but didn’t even finish the first chapter.

Clearly, the moral of the story is, when you are studying for Step 1, don’t go on e-mail or facebook or blogs or news, etc… anything that can distract you is a BAD IDEA.  Because it can quickly wipe out a day before you know it.  Hah.

Today was better – I finished the rest of that Female Repro chapter in Pathoma, as well as all the rest of Repro and Endo, which ended the rest of Pathoma.  You don’t know how proud/happy I was to finally close that tab on my windows haha.  Dr. Sattar’s seriously a great resource though – I’ve definitely done question blocks where things he said were “high yield” or that he taught conceptually showed up in the exact same way he said it would.  So props to you, Dr. Sattar!

Tomorrow I hope to do a practice test still as planned… obviously with me not having gone through all of FA, I will be missing significant parts of the test, but I think it’ll be good to get some idea of where I am now that it’s about 2 weeks out and I need to start ramping things up.  Will try to speed-read some FA tonight until I get too tired, and will update tomorrow about how the practice test goes.

Night!

May 9, 2013

Step 1 Countdown – 19 days left

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP,Step 1 — sanguinemare @ 7:42 pm
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Did Pathoma for Neuro this morning, working my way through FA of Neuro and Psych and will do a question set for neuro tonight.  Here are the short-term goals I’ve come up with today… hopefully I’ll be able to keep to it, and I’ll be able to just barely make it in time. T__T  Wish me luck!

Goal tomorrow: Finish Pathoma (4.03 hrs worth of material x 1.5 (the extra time I’ll need to write down notes/repeat parts of it, if I’m lucky) = 6.05 hrs. Ugh!) That includes both Repro and Endo, with most of that being female repro/breast pathology phew.  Then if I still have strength after that, will try to finish all of repro and endo in BRS phys and FA, and if time permits, do 1 question block tomorrow.

Goal Saturday: will go over answers for all the test blocks that I haven’t finished going through answers for yet, try to finish any remaining stuff in FA, and start random question blocks. Hopefully get 2 in, but we’ll see.

Goal Sunday: Practice Test starting at 7:30am (my actual test time).  And going through answers.

Calculating including today and minus 2 days for practice tests, I have to do an average of 115 questions a day to finish the Qbank before test day. T___T  That’s almost 3 question blocks per day (which my friend had said was probably the max I’d be able to do)!  And of course I won’t be starting randoms until Saturday, so I’ll be needing to make up even more.  Oh I am so screwed… prayers for focus and getting through this over the next 19 days would be extremely appreciated!  Heh. T__T

By the way, if anyone has any questions about the resources I’ve used so far and things like how well the info correlates to what I’m seeing on Q-banks, or the usefulness of each resource, feel free to ask!

[edit: hah! I learned a new word today: blepharospasm (sustained eyelid twitch).  I’d love to be able to say that in context someday.]

Step 1 Countdown – 20 days left

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP,Step 1 — sanguinemare @ 1:26 am
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Finished Skin on Pathoma and did a MSK + skin problem set.  Barely went through the answers, but not all of them in detail.  Will probably need to do more tomorrow.  Exhausted.  I think I’m burning out.  No good.  And I still don’t think I’ve gotten more than 8 hrs of actual studying in a day yet.

May 8, 2013

Step 1 Countdown – 1 month away

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP,Step 1 — sanguinemare @ 12:34 am
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Sigh, didn’t get nearly as much done these last two days as I’d hoped, with some personal issues that came up yesterday and distractions looking up news and following up on stories people had to suffer through today blah.  But I said I’d update so here ya go:

Yesterday: Finished going through answers on the hepatobiliary question set and read some renal physio.

Today: Finished reading renal physio and renal FA in the morning and did a problem set on Renal (67% whoo, if I can keep that percentage on random blocks, I’ll be good to go! They say 70% is a good score on the real test).  Went quickly through the answers just checking why I missed what I did instead of going through all the answer choices like I did before – saving that for tomorrow to review Renal somewhat.  Did some Pathoma on Musculoskeletal before I got distracted by news stories found on facebook during one of my breaks and there went the rest of the day researching on old/similar stories.  I think I’m going to at least finish MSK on Pathoma before I go to sleep tonight.  1 more section to do.  Wish me luck!

May 6, 2013

Studying for Step 1

Getting into the full swing of studying – I’m at T-3 weeks + 1 day right now, and need to really ramp up the studying.  I think after today, I’m going to try to update daily with a brief entry on what I’ve done every day so there will be a record somewhere in case anyone wants to know the step-by-step process of studying for this humongo test that basically determines your medical career (or what you can apply for with reasonable hopes of matching into at any rate haha).  Before I start my records, here are the things I have bought/otherwise acquired for Step 1 for your reference:

Materials:

Pathoma (book and lectures), USMLEWorld Q-bank,  South Biochem, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Physiology (5th edition, Linda Costanzo), Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology, First Aid 2013, Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, Kaplan’s Q-bank, Goljan audio, NBME exams, Kaplan Q-book.

I first bought Pathoma during the school year since we got a good deal on it as students.  Same with a USMLEWorld Q-bank that I didn’t touch until last week.

In April, I bought: Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Phys and studied from those, borrowing a Kaplan Q-book and Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology from a friend to do micro questions.  Was thinking about buying Lange/other pharmacology flashcards, but decided not to after reading reviews.
Later, I of course bought First Aid 2013 (new and improved from the 2012 version and much less errata), and also Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (for reference) and my own copy of Robbin’s Path (see above).  I also bought Kaplan’s Q-bank last-minute last week just in case, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have time to do it yet.

Other resources include: Goljan audio (a classmate at school also downloaded short-audio versions, which is great to put on an mp3-player/ipod), South Biochem (audio and handouts) and NBME practice exams.  Hopefully no one sues me for putting this up or takes away resources because of this post T__T.

Timeline:

So here’s what the rough timeline of what I’ve done so far (with first a word on how studying was with grad school on top of it…so skip the first long paragraph if you don’t want to read about that):

Medical school ended around March 22, which was about 9 weeks ago or so.  Most of my MD classmates start clinical clerkships this week, so they all had to finish before May 2.  However, us MSTP’s have an extra month because we still had grad school throughout April.  From what I’ve heard from upperclassmen/current MSTP classmates is that people in the grad school “themes” all finished 2 weeks ago, and that they either have tests or had a presentation or two on journal articles related to their classes.  Each class is also usually only about a month long.  I, on the other hand, actually had it pretty tough this time since I’ve decided to do a Nutritional Science PhD, which is off the beaten track, so I have to pioneer the way so to speak.  I only had 2 classes this semester, but both were whole-semester long classes that only ended last week, with writing assignments every week (this is all on top of taking all the regular med school classes mind you), and one of them was a grant writing class that also had a couple quizzes and required a grant proposal written throughout.  The final grant proposal was due last Monday, which was the same day my final review paper was due for my other class (along with other projects)  Basically, April for me was spent working on grad school – Class 1: writing/editing the grant proposal and peer-reviewing other people’s grant proposals for hours, and preparing a powerpoint scientific presentation on a paper (which takes hours for me, even for a 15 minute presentation), then Class 2: Researching/preparing for a mock, taped interview session (on acupuncture), researching and presenting another powerpoint scientific review on green tea, then preparing for a consumer presentation on the topic with a handout that also took hours T__T, and finally, writing a review paper (on different studies!) on green tea.  I should say that the grant proposal was on the Paleo diet.  So no overlap between classes unfortunately, which many of the other students were lucky enough to be able to do.  (My topic for the Paleo diet was already chosen by someone else so I was told to choose something else for the other class).  I think the mindset of studying for tests and med school is drastically different than the mindset of a writer/presenter.  I never really realized that so clearly even in undergrad with my double major in the humanities and the sciences.  But here, while trying to flip the way I organize my thoughts so much in such a short space of time, I have recognized that they really are like two sides of the brain.  Needless to say, studying was very difficult in that context.

So, not much studying was done during April, and I am currently left with basically the same amount of time as a regular med student (or maybe less since I didn’t study for Step 1 at all during med school except for chapters 4-5 of Pathoma during Heme-onc, which I re-did anyway for Step 1).  There are two major things that I did accomplish in April though, and that is to go through all of South’s biochem review (audio along with the handouts) and read through all of Clinical Micro MRS (minus the last 2 chapters on antibiotics in the future and a recap of diseases for bioterrorism, both of which I just skimmed), and did a few micro questions in the Kaplan Q-book and Robbins Path.  I may have also gotten in a few chapters of Pathoma and BRS phys in.  Hah, so I did do a little more than I thought, phew.

Since last week, which was my first week of full day studying (which I was not nearly as productive at as I should have been…), I did Pathoma, BRS Phys, and First Aid (FA) for pulmonary and 1 question block on UWorld for it.   Man, going through answers for the test block took literally 4 hours, I kid you not (and I thought my friend who just took it was exaggerating when she said that… she was spot on.)  I also did manage to go through the same 3 resources for GI and finish a question block, but that was all for the week (including yesterday).  I suppose I did lose a couple days because of clinical orientation on Thursday and I flew home Saturday (listening to Goljan and annotating FA on the way as best as I could with a passenger that kept trying to talk to me on the 4-hr leg of the flight >.<), but still, it’s been hard to focus.

So yes, need to really ramp it up.  Did Renal on Pathoma yesterday, and a question block for hepatobiliary on UWorld that I am currently going through right now before I decided to type this up hehe.  I am way behind my schedule (I thought I’d be done w/ MSK and onto neuro by now HAH as if) so my goal today is just to catch up as fast as I can – hopefully after going over questions, I can finish Renal on FA and BRS phys and do a question block… won’t be too expectant that I can do much more than that.

Oh a comment on studying schedule – I’ve only been doing like <8 hrs previously, but starting yesterday I’m doing around at least 10 hrs, waking up at ~6:30am (thank goodness for jet lag in my favor here) and working until 10pm, with breaks for meals.  I have heard that an avg of 12-14 hrs a day is normal at this point (and really should have been true starting at least 4 weeks out from the test).

Ok, I think I’ve spent enough time here… I hope it was somewhat helpful on understanding the life of a med student while studying for boards and what the timeline should be like for your own studying if you decide to go to med school.  I would eventually like to also post some of the crazy/weird mnemonics/ways of remembers stuff I’ve come up with on a separate post to keep track of all of them, but we’ll see if I have time haha.

Bye!

November 22, 2011

Testing

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 10:47 am
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In some ways, med school is easier than undergrad, or even high school.  In high school, we had classes from 8am to either 2 or 3pm depending on the day, and we had at least 6-7 completely unrelated courses.  And in undergrad, especially if you double majored and minored like me, we’d also be taking 4-5 different/unrelated classes at once, with different testing schedules for each.  I also went to an undergrad where we had semesters rather than quarters (thank goodness), so testing would come in waves after 4-5 weeks instead of 2-3… although now that I think about it, with the wide variety I had, it was kind of similar to what it is now.  Anyways.

Right now we have tests every 2-3 weeks, which is very short, and we cover a lot of material.  Today’s test, which I am about to take in 2 hours, is on Immunology.  I would venture to guess that we have covered at least 1-2 undergrad courses worth of material in the last 2 weeks.  That’s basically condensing half a year or a year into 2 weeks.  On the other hand, we are focusing (almost) completely on this topic for these two weeks.  Thus, many of the classes have overlapping themes, materials, and numbers/letters to memorize, although each focusing on different things. 

I find that makes it easier when studying at the end, because you can integrate different lectures and be like “oh, this goes with this,” and “oh that’s what that random receptor is for!”  Sadly, you have to kind of cobble together stuff on your own from different lectures, but I think it’s still better than having multiple unrelated classes.

For this test, what really is saving my butt right now is that a group of us started a system where we each made summaries for 2 class hours worth of class, and we made a dropbox account so we can upload and share them with each other.  I love that about our class, that we are so willing to help each other out.  And the funny thing is, a lot of us all haunt the same floor at the same times when studying!  I find that amusing because everyone in the class has their own study schedule and habits, so you end up rarely seeing many classmates, but most of the people in our summary-share group seem to study in the same areas.  We rarely all study together in the same room – usually it’s done individually in the study carrels – but it’s nice to run into familiar faces so one doesn’t feel like such a hermit.

Anyway, I highly encourage you to make study groups or things like this summary-sharing thing when you get to med school.  It is extremely helpful (and you get to bond with your classmates :P!)

For your information, if you’re curious, here’s a list of all the classes we covered in the last 2 weeks for this test (2 hour classes are denoted by “1 and 2”, and labs/quizzes are done outside of class, taking about 2 hours each). I’ve semi-sorted them out into topics for easier organization while studying:

Immunology
Innate/Adaptive Immunology
Cells of the Immune System 1 and 2
Cytokines
Complement
Trafficking
Phagocytosis
Antibodies 1 and 2
MHC Class I/II
Modulation of the Addaptive Immune Response
Lymphocyte activation
Transplant Immunity
Antigen-Antibody Interactions
Autoimmunity 1 and 2
Immunity and Infection
Overview of Immunology

Pathology
Hemodynamics + Lab/quiz
Hemostasis
Inflammation and repair 1 and 2 + Lab/quiz
Immunodeficiencies 1 and 2
Hypersensitivity
Childhood disease + Lab/quiz
Immunopathology + Lab/quiz

Pharmacology
Antihistamines
Opiods and Pain Management
NSAIDs and Gout

Clinical
Lab Medicine 1 and 2
Lab Medicine Case Reviews 1 and 2

November 9, 2011

Macroscopic Pathology Lab (11/7/11)

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 3:24 pm
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Suppressing gag reflex for 2 hours – not. fun.

After getting lost in a rat maze of underground halls, I step into the demonstration room.  5/7 of us are already there, along with the girl leading our lab.  The room is filled with the rank smell of formalin and decaying organs, and buckets full of fluids and various organ parts line the tables and shelves of the small room.  On the demo table are 7 trays, like the ones you use to serve food, only the insides have towels wrapped around a netted bag containing organs of the recently deceased.  One student asks how long the organs are kept.  The answer was a couple weeks, and then they are stored in the jars for a few months until the case is closed, and then they are disposed of.

We are told to “play” with our organs for a while, and then the girl leading the lab would go over all the cases.  Honestly, as first years, none of us really know what we are doing or looking at, besides what we could vaguely recognize from the pictures from the few online lab we had gotten so far.  But we do as we are told.

Upon reading the notes from the examiner, I find that my specimens come from an inmate who had emphesema before he passed away.  I unwrap the towel and try to figure out what organ I have on hand while simultaneously trying to hold my breath at the sudden blast of noxious air.  Lung? Heart?  What is this random slice here?  Why is the kidney sliced up so much on one side like pre-cut slices of thick deli meat?  Oh, she’s talking to another student about how they cut so much through the heart and the chambers that even she can’t really orient herself on what part she’s looking at.  Now I don’t feel so bad about not recognizing the heart at first, despite having seen a pig’s heart in 5th grade.

Going through my organs, I really can’t tell much of what’s going on.  The most I can see is that the lungs are slightly paler than other people’s, and sponge-like.  There are also gaping holes where abscesses were, with an especially large one in one lower lobe.  I really have no clue what most of the other items are, besides a long smooth strip that reminds me of stomach lining in Chinese food, some kidneys, and testes, and the mess of what I presume is a thoroughly cut-up heart.

The lab leader begins going through the cases one by one.  She sees half of us hanging back a bit, and others sometimes recoiling backwards when she fishes out the next organ.  “Oh, does the formalin bother you?” she asks.  “Yeah, some people have problems with it, for some reason.  It doesn’t really bother me.  Maybe it’s just because I’m used to it.” The rest of us send furtive glances of silent, wry agreement.  I don’t know about the others, but I was trying hard not to pass out for most of the two hours, feeling more and more light-headed as the lab went on. 

 On the upside, we did see a few interesting things.  We had a few “nutmeg livers”, which we learned in class today (2 days later) about how it’s called that because the red spots and bumpy appearance of the liver looks like the inside of a nutmeg.  I found out that the gall bladder turns a brilliant green after fixation due to the bile acids – it’s really quite a pretty color, like green grass – the only nice-looking color in the whole bunch.  One guy had a huge stone in his tray’s kidney.  It had approximately the size, shape, and color of a dried date, although slightly pricklier on the surface and much harder.  Considering that the size of the kidney was only a bit larger than a fist, it was quite a significant portion of the organ.  We also saw lots of thrombi (clots), and plaques in people’s aortas (which is what that strip of yellow, stomach-lining looking thing was).  We also saw evidence of fatty liver (which turns the color tan-ish compared to the normal blue-ish color), and had it compared to pate or foie gras by the lab leader… apparently pathologists really like comparing things to food.

My case had the obvious signs of emphysema as mentioned above, and slight diveriticulitis of the colon (some pockets were we saw fecal matter was still trapped in in the gut), and a spleen that was dark red, congested (full of material), and twice the size it should be.  One person also had a liver that had a ton of metastases from cancer (lots of white spots all over). 

So, some interesting things.  But definitely not enough to make up for the smell and grossness, at least not for me.  Thank goodness we only have to do this once.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even anatomy lab was better.  Maybe it’s the fact that formaldehyde smells marginally better than formalin.  Maybe it’s the fact that bodies sprayed down with formaldehyde (or maybe the fact that most of what we’ve looked at in anatomy so far are muscles, nerves and vessels, which) tend to be drier and firmer, rather than squishy, slippery, and gushy with putrid masses.  I can now say that I have definitely rule out my nebulous consideration of going into forensic pathology.

September 22, 2011

IT IS NOT GOOD TO CRAM IN MED SCHOOL

Filed under: "Me" updates,Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 9:59 pm
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Hooolyyy shiznet.  Guess who just went over 19 hours of (non-anatomy) lecture in 10 hours?! @_________@ Quite a terrible idea.  At least my pace was much faster than yesterday, when I was struggling through anatomy lectures at a rate of 8 hours per 3 lectures.  I still have about the same amount of anatomy lecture hours left, as well as two for surgical anatomy (which I will post about as well in the near future due to it’s traumatizing effect on me…) but I think I will save them until tomorrow morning.  I definitely don’t have 8++ hours left before the test unless I don’t sleep at all, so likely, at best, I’ll have around 2-3 hours.  And this is why you should keep up regularly instead of being like me.  Gahhh. 

So is it possible to cram in med school?  Yes.  Is it a good idea?  No, unless you want to have no life and high stress levels for a couple days to a week.  So far I’ve been pretty bad about it – I tend to use the Wednesday and Thursday before the Friday test to just sit and study for 8 hours at a time or so (we get tested every 2-3 weeks in med school and 2-3 weeks in grad school at the moment).  It’s only worked so far I think because we haven’t had that much anatomy.  But from now on, there’s ALWAYS going to be anatomy.  So I’m definitely going to have to keep up more regularly.

We’ll see what the results of this next test will be…

One upside to studying at school for so long though – the school ordered pizza and soda as a “study break” for those of us who were still around for dinner.  That was really nice of them.

Alright, time to head on back.  Goodnight!

September 15, 2011

Anatomy lab

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 11:01 pm
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We had our first anatomy lab yesterday, concentrating on the back.  Our cadavers no longer look full and whole like they did the first day we met them face-to-face.  The 2nd years have already been busily at work at the bodies for the last few weeks, dissecting the limbs and various other parts of the bodies, so the flesh under the neck has all been stripped clean.

Or well… it should have been.

Our poor donor seemed to be a little worse for the wear, and only about half of her skin was removed.  The muscles on the side that it was removed for looked semi-hacked to pieces, and we couldn’t really make hide-nor-hair of it (no pun intended).  Thankfully, the other side was ok, so we were able to see some of what we were looking for.

I was scheduled to be a dissector (how lucky…).  Luckily, the body was already turned face-down, so we didn’t have to roll her over.  Our lab books were extremely unclear about what we were supposed to do, so we spent some of the time just staring at the book, at the body, and back, trying to figure out where to start.  One of our members, E, was very gung-ho about it, (apparently she “fell in love with anatomy” somewhere along the way before med school), so she started helping us “clean” off the cadaver – which basically means trimming the fat off, like you would a piece of meat.  Our cadaver was on the heavier side, so she had quite a lot of fat (and the skin that we had to trim was literally 3/4ths of an inch think, due to the layer of fat underneath).  She was also more “wet,” as one of the professors said, so it was supposedly easier for us to see the muscles of interest.

Actually doing the dissection requires a bit of art.  You can’t cut too close, or you will cut into the muscle, yet if you cut too little, you can’t really see anything because it’s all blurred together.  And it was actually pretty cool when you reveal the muscle fibers from under the fat layers.  Yesterday we focused on the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae (which help the spine extend and are divided to 3 parts: ilicostalis, longissimus, and spinalis), rhomboid major/minor, levator scapulae, and the 2 splenius in the neck.  My dissecting partner (we are paired into 2 dissectors, 2 readers, and 1 floater) for the day, A, seemed at a loss for the most part, so I asked him to help me peel off layers (you have to “reflect” muscles to see what’s underneath, which is done by pulling the muscle back enough to get tension between the layers, and using the scapel to cut through the connective tissue/fat holding them together).  E helped with the other side.  I think she got kind of frustrated at how badly the cadaver had been messed up before we got to lab.  Don’t blame her though – I can see why.  This is some of what you’ll have to deal with if you need to share cadavers.  We’re lucky though – at least our body hasn’t dried out or molded.  Apparently there have been e-mails sent out about taking care of cadavers because some 2nd years were not doing a good job.  :\

Afterwards, E and I both felt like our fingers were tingly, and hers actually felt numb.  According to one of the professors, the formaldehyde does that sometimes.  And another classmate spoke of it feeling like it was burning his throat and making him choke.  So not only does it smell bad, but apparently it causes numbness if it gets in your skin too long (I guess as it starts the preservation process on your skin…), and it also causes sharp burning pains in the throat/nose.  Also, apparently washing one’s hands 3 times afterwards, and showering, does not remove the smell on the hands after it has been immersed in formaldehyde for 2 hours.  Great stuff.

Tomorrow we have anatomy again.  This time on the neck muscles.  Oh joy.   (It really isn’t so bad if your attitude is to learn about it from a scientific perspective.  I’m just being melodramatic :P)

I also found out from one of our preceptors yesterday that apparently at my school, they had stopped using cadavers for a while before us, so the dissections were already done for the students.  I guess they just brought this back recently, because our preceptor is only a 3rd year resident, which means he went through the program here 7 years ago.  At any rate, as I’ve said in a previous entry, I’m glad they’re letting us do this the “traditional” way.  I think we learn more doing things hands-on, regardless of the confusion/frustrations.

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