After 10 years of college and a terminal degree, it’s hard to imagine choosing to put yourself back into a situation as a student again. On the other hand, if we spent that many years, or more, in college, it is because we love to learn, and are passionate about what we study. More than any other conference I’ve attended or group I’ve belonged to, the HAPS community is brimming with professors and professionals who love what they do. As an A&P professor, I spend most of my time not at work in my own world. It’s not exactly a passion that can easily share with anyone not in the field, so my friends and family were surprised (but not really that surprised) that I applied for the 2-year Anatomy Training Program through the American Academy of Anatomists. I was fortunate and privileged to be admitted to this program.
In order to meet a number of requirements of the program, I enrolled in our college’s Gross Anatomy course for the Doctoral PT students. This is taught by my senior colleagues, and for an added twist, I’m sitting among many students who I had in A&P as undergraduates and stayed at Drexel for their DPT. After teaching for 5 years, still being (relatively) young and not too long out of school myself, I thought that I would have some advantage over these students, having gone through the hard work of a terminal degree and teaching A&P already. In fact, since I knew I would be placed in a lab group with 5 other students, I was very concerned about not steamrolling them, or guiding too much, out of fear of interfering with their learning. The past few weeks have taught me, in more ways than one, that I still have so much to learn. Here is the first lesson.
Lesson 1: My anatomy education has only just begun
There’s no simpler way to say it- I’m stumped every day. I stand over a body confident after studying Grant’s atlas, reading Moore’s Clinical Anatomy and looking at as many cadaver photos as I can, only to lose orientation as I move from one cadaver to the next. All my experience in gross anatomy lab until now had been handling joint preparations and prosections, often neatly labeled and tagged (by the gross lab elves, I assumed) by the time I brought my A&P students to lab. The difference between photos in a text and the actual body is staggering. Even if by some magic, all the colors were the same in the body as in the text (oh if only nerves were bright yellow and arteries bright red, how much time would we save?) the lack of 3D visualization is a major stumbling block to overcome when dissecting.
It saddens me to think that cadaver education might be going by the wayside in the advent of digital resources. There simply can’t be a substitute to feeling the springy give of an artery, or tracing the terminal branches of the brachial plexus from the cords to the innervated muscles.
No matter how humbling, this experience is showing me the value of continuing to challenge yourself and further your education. If we aren’t willing to do so, why should our students?
Wish me luck!