Anatomy in Medical School … A Truly Herculean Task?
For centuries, Gross Anatomy has maintained its unequivocal presence across the curricula in most medical schools. Even now, lecture-based teaching in pre-clinical stages is primarily focused on introducing cardinal landmarks of the human body. Consequently, incoming medical students find themselves inundated with an abundance of anatomical knowledge.
My experience followed a very similar pattern, with the first few lectures showcasing persistent confusion. I distinctly remember an overwhelming feeling sinking in, as the lecturer continued to vocalize fancy terminology pertaining to scapular muscles. At the time, I was unable to comprehend memorizing these and didn’t possess a strategy to consolidate the content aptly. These circumstances culminated into low-key paranoia, coupled with ineffectual anxiety-driven revision nights. In my opinion, being amidst 250 or so astute brains certainly played its part in escalating this disquietude.
Soon after, cadaveric dissection sessions commenced and added to the pandemonium already brewing. These two hour-long classes were messy, to say the least, and accompanied by an extremely pungent-smelling formaldehyde. Not to mention, the inhumane ideals of dissecting a body without any prior experience was some-what troubling. I found myself standing within inches of a cadaver, trying to jot down important details (or so I thought!) and attempting to cast these gruesome images to short-term memory.
However, the chaotic nature of these “notes” and inevitable failure to recall mentally-construed figures was subsequently brought to light. These aforementioned events seemed to highlight the need to procure a reliable action plan, one which would resonate with my learning capabilities. Accordingly, the next few days were spent in the wake of continuous trial-and-error, where I employed a plethora of different studying methods. Nailing down the note-making task was probably the hardest feat to achieve, as I dabbled with tablet-based notes, Microsoft OneNote and even handwritten ones. Ultimately, I struck a likeable balance between the latter two by writing out crucial pieces of information (to boost recall), illustrating different diagrams (chiefly for labelling purposes) and making online notes during lectures.
Aside from this, devising a holistic memorization technique also required some degree of experimentation. Committing structures to long-term memory demanded sustained effort in the form active recall, which eventually became my go-to tactic. During the weekend, I spent approximately 2 hours coming up with questions for myself to answer (following a future revision period). This effectively covered all necessary areas and constituted as basic roundup before the actual exam. Concurrently, making flashcards for osteology, musculature (complying with the origin, insertion, innervation and action model) and vasculature proved to be advantageous as well.
Similarly, with regards to dissection, I elicited the help of a 2nd year student who was kind enough to point out the bigger picture associated with its ideology. He explained how these sessions were meant to help with the conceptualization process, fundamentally supplementing the revision of all concepts taught in lectures. Additionally, he also emphasized the noteworthiness of prosected specimens for exam-oriented learning and correctly identifying structures during spot tests. Resultantly, I chose to revise relevant lectures or dissection slides (if any) beforehand and use the time for interpretation of surface anatomy, structural placement etc.
Besides this, making note of any additional pointers (often mentioned by the demonstrators) was quite helpful in augmenting comprehension of a particular topic. Moreover, there are a variety of different resources available for assistance with the learning process including books, atlases and flashcards. All these can be used for a deeper understanding and spatial recognition of organs or systems.
So what’s the gist of this elaborate commentary?
YES!! Anatomy can be exceptionally irksome in the beginning and may feel moderately futile. Nonetheless, you will definitely come to enjoy it at some point and also learn about its true significance in clinical years.
Thank you for reading. :)