Anatomy word of the month: thymus

June 2, 2014 —

bunchofthyme“Burned as a sacrifice, incense” in Greek.  A lymphoid organ lying directly above the heart, more prominent in the young than adults.  This gland provides the T-lymphocytes so important in the immune process and the primary cell type attacked by the AIDS virus.  So, how did we get here from “incense”?  The thymus had a supposed resemblance to a bunch of thyme, the spice, to imaginative ancient anatomists.  Thyme was burned as incense to the gods of ancient Greece for its fragrant odor.  And, for the discriminating palate, the thymus of the calf when cooked is called “sweetbreads”.  Sautéed or poached on toast, yummy!


Dr. Dyche was born in New Jersey and trained at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center before coming to Des Moines in 1976. Over 30 plus years he has taught gross anatomy, embryology and neuroanatomy. He also served in administration as associate dean for basic sciences, dean of the College of Health Sciences, and acting director of the PA program. He was one of the founding instructors of CPR and ACLS at a time when few medical schools offered this training. He retired to Oregon in 2008, then returned to DMU in 2009. Did he miss the tornadoes, the below zero wind chills or the cadavers?

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