A Cut Above- A reduction in the number of cadavers and instructors actually improves the teaching of medical gross anatomy

By Michael Dauzvardis

Time: midnight
September, 2011
Place: gross anatomy lab
Music playing softly in the background: Your Body is a Wonderland, by John Mayer

“I’ve been at it for 4 hours and still can’t find the greater occipital nerve!” barks Joe, a first year medical student meticulously dissecting the posterior neck region on his cadaver— which he has nick-named Marvin.

Emily, one of Joe’s four dissection partners, quips “Perhaps that’s what killed Marvin—the congenital lack of a left greater occipital nerve!” 

“Hilarious, “Joe retorts “Remind me to laugh.”

At that instant, Joe, in a moment of frustration, slips and forcibly plunges his scalpel into the neck musculature– striking bone.

Emily cautiously points, smiles, and adds “Oh—I didn’t know the greater occipital nerve was hollow.”

Joe, with his overzealous dissection technique, had managed to cut through both the greater occipital nerve and occipital artery.

“You’ll make a fine psychiatrist” taunts Emily.

Joe sets down his scalpel, rips off his gloves, and sulks out of the lab…

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