29 October 2009

Pause for a moment of dissection

I had my first "Wow" moment of anatomy dissection this week. Not to say that other things haven't been interesting or informative, but what I saw this week was really amazing. Part of lab is the expectation that you will complete dissection on the cadaver at your table and learn from the variation present in other cadavers throughout the lab to make the most of the unique experience afforded by our generous donors and to give students a chance to learn about natural variation.

Most joints have nice smooth surfaces, you can see a glossy shine to the cartilage on the bone ends. My table dissected the hip joint and we noticed some degenerative changes at the head of the femur, but nothing which really made me stop and take note. As I circled the lab to see the other hips, knees and ankles which had been opened, I stopped and could not believe my eyes. This knee was matte, dull and had grooves on the back of the patella and the front of the femur. I don't mean little changes of less shiny or grooves you could play back on a record player. I mean you set a cheap ballpoint pen into the groove and it would almost disappear. And there were 4-5 grooves that deep. Amazing, this woman was walking around on a knee (or maybe knees) that was so worn. You'd have to ask an orthopedic doc, but I'd guess that didn't feel very good. As I examined the joint with other students at the table, we tried to find the medial meniscus (your main cushion for all the pounding of your femur onto your tibia) and only a thin rim of it remained at the inside and the back. The only word for the entire joint was wow.

05 October 2009

Hermit crab lifestyle

Carrying your home on your back can be hard work. Students of many levels experience this phenomenon, but I think grad students living off campus take it to an extreme. In the age of electronic everything, a number of my textbooks are available on-line which allows me to live out of a backpack and lunchbox. I generally refuse to stay on campus for dinner and try not to return to campus in the evening since I study well at home. Others in my class travel with multiple bags for exercise clothing, other books, breakfast and lunch and dinner, and the variety of other junk people carry around when they don't know when it might be feasible to leave the building. If we really could invent some sort of portable shell which would allow us to curl up and nap securely on campus, I don't think some of my class would even bother to rent an apartment.