Being an Anatomist at King’s

So here we are. I spend my last day of term, thinking about what I definitely will treasure from this school year. First things first: I have to say the Anatomy dissection experience is definitely good.

The facts
There are only a few UK universities offering weekly dissection sessions for biomedical students, and we are very fortunate to have our own cadaver to work on. Each week we dissect a certain area according to the instructions from the booklet, which matche with the lectures we are having, e.g. upper limb region (anterior then posterior), thorax, lower limb etc. You might think it can be a bit too much doing the laborious work cutting, trimming off fats, separating layers; however, in our group of 8 students, we often divide ourself into 2 smaller groups – one doing hands on work and the other doing self-study/discussion.

My own thoughts
Models, samples and resources (skeletons, books, articles) are everywhere, so it is never boring there. Usually the hands-on people are those will go on to do surgery, laboratory research in advanced anatomy; nevertheless, the opportunity to hold and examine the real structures, to carefully investigae its 3D arrangement and relations to other structures is invaluable. More than often I find that the textbooks and even anatomy apps don’t completely represent the experience. After the preservation process the body undergoes changes so it doesn’t look and feel as expected; on the other hand, what you see in textbook is what has been interpreted, averaged, or even assumed by other people. I remember from a discussion between another student and a neuroanatomist writing his own neuroanatomy textbook, he explained that you may find mixed information from textbooks which are essentially different interpretations/opinions. My own experience is that the feel of organs especially the lung, the heart, the nerves, the brain is very unique with structures neatly arranged for maximal function. Truly unforgettable.

The fun bits/ Tips
– My mum jumped when I told her that I was going to dissect, as it is quite common in Asian countries to believe in after-life, ghosts and so on. However, every medical students in my country has to do some dissection too if they want to be a doctor! My tip is to have a ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach;-)
– I remember on the very first session I was too enthusiastic that my hanging hair was in contact with some bodily fluids! As a scientist it is very important to avoid contamination, and for girls with long hair, nails, accessories, heels etc.: definitely prepare beforehand.
– It is easy to feel lost on the first few sessions. Some books such as a dissection manual where it directs you how to cut and trim/separate in the most beneficial way and least damaging way. For example in the foot the layers of muscles, nerves are so interspersing and inter-connected that it is almost unavoidable to cut into some core structures (especially when they are not differentially coloured like in your textbook!). My next recommendation is to read the introduction chapter in anatomy books. I usually skip introduction chapter, but for anatomy it is utterly utterly important. Then you have big names such as Gross’s Anatomy, Moore’s Essential Clinial Anatomy etc. If you have a smartphone, do look out for apps. Finally, check out King’s own anatomy museum, Gordon’s Museum, whenever you need inspiration;-)

More inspiration:
1) Channel 4’s The Anatomists program.
2) Anatomy exhibition at Museum of London. Offers on tickets are available on sites like Groupon, Amazon Local deals, Wowcher.