The human anatomy is one of the only guarantees in medicine. Year after year, anatomy will never change. Structures may change names, but names won’t change the structures. At UCLA, we integrate anatomy with our current curriculum. Anatomy is learned in small bits, throughout the year, instead of all at once. The first day of anatomy was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had never seen a dead person before medical school, besides on television and I doubt those people are actually dead. They are probably just sleeping actors, but I digress. Upon entering the anatomy lab you realize anatomy has a distinct smell. We gathered around our designated “tanks” that housed our designated bodies. The tank opens and my heart is pounding. I am trying very hard not to be the student who faints the first day of anatomy lab. There, in front of us, lay an elderly man. A man who had a long and, hopefully, fulfilling life. We have no idea what path he took in his life to end up before us, he was here nonetheless. After several seconds of reassurance that our body was actually deceased, we exposed the chest cavity. I reach for the heart, as my own heart beats through my chest. This is what I have worked so hard for. Those who have been in my shoes, know the feeling. Those still working to get to that point, it was everything I hoped it would be. The simplest act of holding another person’s heart is something you will remember for the rest of your life. Only a small percentage of people can say they did that. I was in that percentage now. All thanks to the man who donated his body to UCLA. Without him, without the rest of the donations, our class would not have learned nearly as much.
As time passes, you bond with your body. You are the expert on his, or her, little anatomical deviations. I have spent many weekends with my body and whenever I see someone examining him, I make sure they treat him correctly. Anatomy is important for every specialty in medicine which is why it is the foundation of every medical school curriculum. Not only medical students, but residents also use cadavers to practice medical procedures before transitioning to the living. Though much is kept secret behind the doors of a medical school anatomy lab, when we emerge, our knowledge of medicine has increased, our respect for life has strengthened and our scrubs need to be washed.
To anyone reading this, contemplating donating their body to a medical school, I would recommend it. Medical students need these bodies to learn medicine. Textbooks are nowhere near as helpful as actually holding a heart or a brain. We, as medical students, do not deserve your ultimate sacrifice of donating your body to us. I can promise that we will strive to become deserving in the future, with your help. In order to make this world a better place, it starts with your contribution. Thank you.