HAPS Teaching Tip: Anatomical Poetry III

A message from Polly Husmann, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches anatomy to medical, graduate, and undergraduate students.
A message from Polly Husmann, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches anatomy to medical, graduate, and undergraduate students.

As the final blog post on poetry in anatomy, this week’s poems focus on the experience of anatomy lab. We all know that anatomy labs, especially those that involve cadaveric materials, can be difficult for some students. Our labs do include prosected male and female donors as you will read about below. The following students chose to reflect (quite eloquently!) on their experiences dealing with our donors and the amount of work that Anatomy A215 requires of them.

The Life of an Anatomy Student 
By Haley Simon
I can’t believe it; the end of first semester is here
Thus bringing an end to my anatomy career
A215 has made me laugh, A215 has made me cry
Cry? I mean an overflow of fluid in the lacrimal puncti
In lab I get to practice my skills
Except when I look at the donor’s great omentum, which just makes me ill
To those who guided me along this journey, I can’t thank you any more
You make me want to flex my zygomaticus major

A Glimpse of Mortality
By Abigail Willis
Sex: M
Cause of Death: Stroke
I always notice his Ears.
The donor’s body.
His legs. hands. torso.
Are easy to feel distance from.
Examining his internal organs
Elicits no more reaction
Than viewing the plastic parodies
On models around the lab
But his Ears.
I sit beside a hospital bed
Hand grasping another’s
His much more ancient than mine
We talk and laugh
Recalling smiling memories
I take in his wide grin,
His lucid eyes, and flared nares
Feeling confident in his recovery –
Until I spot his Ears.
Age: 88
Sex: M
Cause of Death:
To be Determined

Anatomy Lab
By Sara Sigman
I first walked in at 8 am
And made my way to the very front row
I had had many science labs before this
But what to expect for anatomy, I didn’t know.
Several structures of organs and muscles and nerves
All were strewn about across the stretch of the room
And a half head model showing the parts of the brain
Made me wonder which section we would start on today.
I pulled out my notes with a diagram and pen
And after jotting a few things down I didn’t know how it’d end
To my surprise, they said “Okay, we’re going to call you up by row now”
And my sternocleidomastoid moved my head to that sound.
The metal box opened up and the formaldehyde burned my nose
My heart skipped a beat as my anxiety rose.
“We’re working with cadavers?” I had never seen one before
I walked up tentatively to show my respect for the girl.
And suddenly I was overwhelmed
Overcome by some emotion
Because as I stared at the body
There was the brain plain and open.
And as the other students shrugged it off
And talked about everything they could see
I couldn’t take my eyes off
The brain that once contained memories.
All their knowledge, all their values
Their personality and their beliefs
Were once held in this collection of cells
That was right in front of me.
I was silent for a moment
When I looked at the remains
I saw a person with a job and family
Who felt love, happiness and pain.
They could’ve had children, maybe even a dog
And their heart hurt when their kids went to college for so long
And maybe they traveled the world until they grew old
And maybe they were a rebel who never did what they were told.
You can’t dissect the heart and see how much love it held
And you can’t dissect the brain and watch their favorite memory expel
I was in shock and awe as I looked at these physical parts displayed
That held such intangible things in their day.
All I can say is from that day on I walked away changed
That moment of realization won’t ever go away
And when I donate my body to science when my time comes and my body stays
I’ll hope someone in anatomy can appreciate how incredible our bodies are made.

One thought on “HAPS Teaching Tip: Anatomical Poetry III

  1. So cool! I love the last one about how the body is there but once had all of the intangibles that go with life.

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