Anatomy: From 1,600 BC to Now

Samy Ramadan
uvmmedicine blogger Samy Ramadan ’17

The study of anatomy began in the year 1,600 BC along the lower reaches of the Nile River. For my classmates and me, the rite of passage that is human gross anatomy started more than 3,600 years later on Monday, September 30th, 2013. For many of us, this was the first time seeing a dead body.

Anatomy, a tradition that has helped train thousands of physicians and surgeons before me, is the part of medical school that all students remember. It also happens to be the part that is the most difficult to describe. That fact became evident for me when I was on the phone with my mother later that day. She asked how my first dissection went and the only response I could come up with on the spot was “great.” I didn’t know what to say. How do I explain what it feels like to spend hours cutting apart another human’s body? How does one describe being in a room with 21 cadavers? Every single donor in the anatomy lab was someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father. They had all lived; they had all died, and they had all chosen to donate themselves to our class. The whole experience was ethereal.

I sincerely hope that every donor and their family knows how much their gift and sacrifice is helping us learn. Seeing illustrated diagrams and attending lectures is no way to master this complex and intricate subject. I am both grateful and honored for this opportunity and will always respect and cherish my donor.

I whispered “thank you” to my donor as I picked up my scalpel to make the first incision. At that moment I realized that my teacher and guide was not the doctor running human anatomy, but rather the donor laying right there in front of me.

2 thoughts on “Anatomy: From 1,600 BC to Now”

  1. The older we get the more we realize how quickly life passes. I am soon to be 61 years old and am in very good health. But, watching friends and loved ones pass away causes one to reflect on ones’ own end.
    Having been a nurse for 40 years, I have been giving thought to anatomical donation, am pretty sure I will be pursuing the necessary paper work etc. When I read the comments above, especially the comment that you whispered thank you to your donor, shows the respect I was hoping would be there.
    I would truly love to be a teacher after my passing.

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