Back to the Basics: Senior Anatomy Project

Does one ever truly forget the scent of phenol & stainless steel of the anatomy lab? It had been 3 years away from that distinctive aroma, but I got a good reminder 2 weeks ago  when my senior anatomy project kicked off. Apparently I am one of three seniors whom are the first batch to undergo a project this school year. I highly recommend this Basic Science elective, as I spent a whole lot of time lounging in the anatomy library fiddling around on my computer (and working on my presentation, I swear).

4th year students are required to choose a 2 week Basic Science elective. This could be in Anatomy, Pathology, Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, etc. Typically the surgical-minded people opt for Anatomy, as you get to dissect & perform procedures without the risk of mortality. For this elective, you choose one of our esteemed Anatomy professors, propose a project of whatever you desire, and then present your work to the Anatomy department at the end of the 2 weeks. You get to work at your own pace, as long as everything is done by the second Friday.

For my elective, I chose Head & Neck with Dr. Nava. Being that I am a bit squeamish working around the no-longer-living bodies, I tried to pick a project that would keep me away from the face, as working face-to-face can be a little ……. unnerving. I asked around to other students and a few surgery residents about which project to pick and finally decided upon a two part project: tracheostomy + central venous line placement. Still located in the neck, but I could keep the face covered up while I worked. My proposal was accepted and I got straight to work.

Ah, that strong chemical scent, which I soon realized I was quite possibly allergic to. Regardless, I spent the vast majority of the beginning of the first week attempting to shove a central venous catheter into a rock hard subclavian vein. I was unsuccessful,  so I had to stage it for the photos (fake it ’til you make it). One of the most important parts of this project is meticulous documentation. You need to take many, many photos of each and every step (even if those steps don’t really work out). These photos make up the basis of your final presentation, and without a decent variety of pictures, the presentation will lack pizzazz.

Unfortunately, all the bodies we had available had already been trached by the Emergency Medicine department, so I had to wait on a new body being pulled for the second part of my project. This gave me plenty of time to work on my final presentation, and leave me some much needed free time during the weekend. After just completing 12 weeks straight of fairly intense Surgery electives, this elective has been wonderful. No waking up at 3:30 am, or returning home past 7:00 pm. 3 meals a day as opposed to 1 meal and maybe a scarfed down granola bar between OR cases. Now, don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed those rotations, but I have also enjoyed catching up on my sleep deficit!

During my second week, I was able to work on a different body for the tracheostomy portion of my project. Malcolm was working on the other end, so together we made a pretty good team. The body ended up with a simultaneous trach, hysterectomy, and a sub-urethral sling, but both of us received great working knowledge of neck & pelvic anatomy.

Overall, I would say all of the final presentations went very well. A GYN attending came in to assist Malcolm Hardy with a hysterectomy & sub-urethral sling, and Eden Yoon (who is going into Opthalmology) dissected an orbit to show off the relevant anatomy. Since I am unable to post photos of our dissections, I wanted to get a few pics of our presentations. Unfortunately, dimly lit room + old iPhone = grainy/blurry photos. And Dr. Nava, bless him, just couldn’t quite get a perfect shot of us 3 amigos. But even blurry, you can see the smile of satisfaction on our faces of an elective successfully completed.

Pneumothorax – one of the many complications from placing a central venous line.

Explaining the “digestant” system.

A gift from a classmate from a LA 99 cent store. Last time I checked, the duodenum didn’t connect directly into the transverse colon…

Dr. Escobar’s face after I graciously offered her the chance to use the “digestant” system as an anatomy lab teaching aid. Clearly the rest of the professors are equally thrilled.

Malcolm giving a great run-down on how to start a C-section.

The three very blurry amigos: Malcom, myself, and Eden