Thursday, July 26, 2001

What is this life so full of care, we have no time to stand and stare

I have been busy preparing for upcoming exams (Monday). In anatomy, the section we are being tested on is the head & neck - by far the most complicated and difficult. You are right: anatomy and histology are fascinating subjects and I can imagine myself spending not just one 3 and half month semester but a whole year studying just those ... and still not exhaust the depths of the subjects. Unfortunately my feelings with our compressed semester schedules is summed up in the words of a poet whose name I forget:

"What is this life so full of care?
We have no time to stand and stare."

Friday, July 06, 2001

A Body of Work -- a poem based on cadaver dissection

A Body of Work by Vijay Aswani

Posted July 6, 2001 HMS Beagle -- A Biomed Net magazine. Issue 106

The Smell.
That is the all-pervading reality, the memory signature of the
Our cadaver is located near a window.
Sleep deprived, tense and brow-beaten
We are leaned over an open Atlas
- our wet and frayed road map to the body.
Tired gloved hands push and tease in blunt dissection.
Intrusive, invading, irreverent.
Where is the nerve?
Eyes dart from Atlas to the gaping hole in the body and back to the
Outside, the flowers waved and danced in a gentle breeze
Carrying their seductive scent to any willing partners.
A hummingbird's wings blur in a silent hum as it hovers over a nectar
A butterfly lazes over a bush of flowers.
A riot of color, of life, of unhurried pleasure.
Accusing eyes gaze at the stiff, lifeless, colorless flesh.
We only have half an hour more to prossect the pelvic structures.
Will we lose our grade?
"You've cut the tendon! What are you doing?"
Large angry eyes pin their accusation on the one with the scissors.
Meanwhile, the cadaver says nothing.
Outside, a bird arrives on the telephone wire above the bush.
Her tail dips as she cooes her love call.
From a nearby tree, another answers.
Joyful flapping of wings tell the story of a happy union.
"Can you show me the ischiocavernosus muscle?"
The cold, expressionless voice of the mentor demands.
Uh . . . um . . . fingers prod and probe. Eyes are cast away from the
The tension was palpable even if the muscle and associated nerve were
The cadaver says nothing.
The mentor walks away in silence.
We stare exasperated at this collection of nerves, muscles and blood
This puzzle in a human body box
To be cleaned, dissected, exposing structures of interest.
Outside, the flowers danced and dodged in the wind
Nature and life, color and song, process and movement
In lazy summer sunshine.

Vijay Aswani holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Bombay,
India, in 1992. In January 2001, at the age of 38, he decided to enroll in
medical school to work toward an M.D. He is currently teaching biochemistry
and studying medicine at the Medical University of the Americas, Nevis,
West Indies. This poem is what happens when a mature medical student
experiences gross anatomy after a life in biology and literature.