Cadaveric dissection for 1st year medical students
Christoher Parry, Daniel Lin and Matthew Boissaud-Cooke are first year medical students on the accelerated MB ChB programme at Warwick Medical School. Here is their recount of a trip to Grenada this summer….
A crisp early morning in late June saw a group of just 21 lucky medical students from the University of Warwick arrive at Gatwick airport in preparation for a bit of a busman’s holiday. After a long flight, we walked off the air-conditioned plane into a brick wall of heat and humidity with our feet firmly planted on the beautiful isle of spice in the Caribbean: Grenada. This was to be our home for the following five weeks … and where we would get our first opportunity for cadaveric dissection.
On arrival at St George’s University, we were quickly whisked off to the anatomy lab to meet Dr George E. Salter Jr. who gave us an introductory talk and instructions for our work which was to begin early the next morning. Before we knew it, we were assigned a cadaver and were instructed to dissect various regions of the body. Dr Salter demonstrated the importance of anatomical knowledge as he skilfully reflected the skin and superficial fascia saying: “it may seem as though I am whipping through the cadaver but in no way am I being cavalier in my approach.”
Seeing these fine-motor skills and the seemingly effortless use of surgical instruments – it was then that we began to learn and appreciate his brilliant surgical skills …. It was an opportunity that many students don’t encounter until after medical school.
Interestingly, we found numerous anatomical variations, including a three headed bicep brachii, highlighting that not everyone is like a Netter’s textbook diagram! Examining the cadavers also unearthed the sad reality of terminal disease with colorectal tumours and even mesothelioma being identified. We also overcame a significant boundary that can feel unnatural at first – that feeling of cutting into another person – but which has hopefully allowed us to better understand and cope with what lies before us as doctors and surgeons of the future.
Now on top of all the anatomy study, it would be remiss of us not to mention that an equally important task during our five weeks was to make the most of the Caribbean! We spent time on beautiful white-sanded beaches, snorkelling in turquoise waters, enjoying the local cuisine, trekking through break-neck areas of rainforest, jumping into waterfalls, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, driven about by rally-driving style taxi drivers and last, but not least, trying out the local rum punch – not bad for a first year med student!
But back to the important stuff …. Cadaveric dissection has given us an appreciation of anatomy that cannot be gained from textbooks or lectures. Our time in Grenada has given us a deeper understanding of the three-dimensional aspect of the human form and its clinical relevance. We were fortunate enough to have the “Hanno” Boon 2011 dissection Masterclass running alongside our dissection and provided us the opportunity to speak to and learn from an international group of dissectors and an insight into the world of clinical anatomy and research.
These experiences have left us with a new found confidence and even amongst a few, interests in pursuing anatomy-driven specialties. Our thanks goes to Professor Abrahams, Professor of Clinical Anatomy at Warwick, for an incredible opportunity; the late Dr Johannes Boon, a “shooting star in clinical anatomy” to whom the Masterclass was dedicated; Dr Loukas for allowing us to work in his department; Dr Salter for his time, patience, technical skills and infinite knowledge on anatomy. But above all, our utmost recognition and respect goes to those who were generous enough to donate their bodies for us to learn from. We are humbled by your gift - thank you.