What’s it like to… take Anatomy Lab?

male student standing in anatomy lab

When did you first begin classes in the anatomy lab? How often are you there?

Anatomy is taken in the first of year of the clinical programs and the Master of Science in Anatomy program (MSA.). For the D.O., D.P.M., and MSA programs, the anatomy course runs almost the entire first year. It starts in August and ends in the beginning of May. There are about 2 weeks of anatomy lectures before lab begins so students have a good knowledge base to go into the lab with. Once labs begin, students have 1-2 labs per week, with each lab lasting 2 hours. Due to the high number of students, the D.O. and D.P.M. classes are split into two groups, so students do not go to every lab. As an MSA student, I am required to go to every lab, so I am in lab 2-4 times per week. There are also open lab hours so students can spend time in the lab studying outside of the required lab time.

Give us the layout. What do you hear, see, and notice in the lab?

 One of the first things you notice when you step into the lab is the cleanliness. The anatomy labs are kept very clean, and this is due to the professionalism and respectfulness of the students working in the lab. There is also a distinctive smell to the lab, but it isn’t terrible, and eventually most students get used to the smell. The lab is essentially one large room that is sectioned into 5 smaller rooms. The lab has 30-40 tables total, with 6-8 tables in each smaller room. The tables have “doors” or covers on them that keep the cadavers covered so you cannot see them when walking into the lab. Each table, or station, is equipped with a TV monitor and computer so students can pull up the dissector to guide them through the dissection and refer to pictures to aid them in finding structures. There are sinks located along the walls in each room, along with soaking solution for the cadavers and cleaning solution for cleaning the tables. During the labs it will get noisy with students talking and discussing the material, as well as professors and TA’s reviewing the material and quizzing students.

What kind of assignments did you get?

There are no assignments due for lab, but students are expected to know and review the material for each lab before they come to lab. The course is set up in a way that students receive the information/material in lectures before going to lab so students know the structures and their function and location before going in to the lab. Students who do not attend every lab are expected to go into the lab and review what the previous group did so they are prepared for the next lab.

How many people work together at each station?

Five students work together at each station. Since the DOs and DPMs are divided into two groups, each station is shared by two groups, so a total of 10 students work on each cadaver. During the labs, one person from each group is designated the leader. The leader is there to direct the group and relay information about the dissection and what cuts are to be made to the group from the dissector. The other 4 students dissect. A different student is the leader for every lab so each student gets a chance to lead and dissect. There are also two TA’s and one professor in each section of 6-8 tables to assist students with dissection and finding structures, as well as quiz students and answer questions about the material.

Do you have any advice for someone nervous about working in the lab?

Be prepared. Going in to lab being prepared and knowing the material helps a lot. It will make the time spent in lab much more efficient and helpful. Going into lab the first time can be a bit daunting and make some students uncomfortable, but most students become comfortable with being in lab after a couple of weeks. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They happen. For many students, it is their first time performing a cadaveric dissection. It takes time to develop some of those skills. The people donated their bodies to help students learn and develop the skills necessary to be a good clinician or other professional. Use the time in lab and this gift of body donation to learn.

What surprised you or didn’t you expect?

I was surprised by how much I learned and how much variation there is from cadaver to cadaver. The gift of body donation allows students to learn so much more than if they only had models and pictures to look at. Dissection allows students to see relationships between structures much better, as well as see the location and course of some structures in the body. Along with that, it is amazing to see how unique each body is. No two bodies are the same, as even the internal anatomy varies greatly from person to person.

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