I am a gross anatomist.As a college student in Michigan I had no knowledge of human anatomy or the possibility of a career in that field. I was vaguely thinking about graduate work in biology when an anatomist alumnus of Kalamazoo College invited me to consider pursuing the field in Galveston,Texas. Two weeks later I was committed to my ultimate career choice in a part of the nation about which I was completely naive.I took a chance. I believe that taking chances often works out well. There have been other points in my life when that same belief has paid dividends.
I have now completed my 50th year of teaching gross anatomy to students of medicine and physical therapy and physician assistant students. I have taught more than 6000 during the fifty years. I direct the program in gross anatomy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and also direct the course in the neurosciences. ‘I am convinced that our gross anatomy program is one of the best. It features cadaver dissection backed up with an abundance of information technology. With the click of a mouse, students can call up a 50 inch atlas picture to help them identify pertinent structures. Every day a provocative question of the day fills the television screens. Living anatomy is a prominent feature as students test all muscles on each other, take pulses , palpate bomy prominences, test the range of motion of joints or draw the internal organs on the skin surface in order to enhance visualiztion. Clinical application is a major focus and there is considerable emphasis on normal variation and anomolous structures. It is common to find anatomic structure that deviates from textbook description. My goal is to get my students to think about normal variations as opposed to pathology as they examine their patients.
I am good at what I do. My colleagues and my students often tell me so. I am particularly gratified when I can explain the significance of some anatomic entity students didn’t know about or about which they had a misconception. For instance, the combination of synovial fluid in a joint space like the knee and the cartilage on the opposing ends of the bones is more than 100 times more efficient than a ball-bearing and oil in terms of freedom from friction. Space-age materials have not come close to duplicating this system.
I belive that once a person has become an expert he or she should continue to use that expertise until unable. Experts make few errors, are able to work more efficiently than others, and they can help leaders avoid costly pitfalls. I am heartened to listen to many in our society like Dan shore, Lou Rawls, the 60 Minute Team who despite age continue to make their unique contributions.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.