Day 17: [Guest Post] Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine: A New Chapter

I finally wrangled a guest entry from Nicole Lederman, one of my oldest and dearest friends as well as one of my classmates here at OUWB. Enjoy!

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine: A New Chapter

I’ve been wanting to document my adventures throughout medical school, but one of the first things I am realizing as a medical student is that free time is rare. At the very least, I wanted to share some writing samples with you all. The one below is our most recent reflection assignment through our PRISM course (a class devoted to student wellness, growth and reflection).

Here is the prompt:
Reflect on your thoughts about anatomical dissection in anticipation of your first day of gross anatomy. Describe your hopes, concerns, and fears, if any, prior to class.

This response can be a straightforward response, a mock diary entry, a letter to your instructor or a peer or a family member, or a 3rd person narrative in which you are the main character.

Dear Dr. Forbes,

I’ll be honest. I googled “cadaver” hoping to receive inspiration for this reflection and to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for my first experience with anatomical dissection. Shortly after viewing some images, I nearly threw up inside my mouth, and felt my eyes start to swell up with tears.

Allow me just a moment to explain. Forgive me, for I’m sure you have dealt with my type before. I want to become a physician because of a deep love and respect that I have for all human beings; because I value the human spirit more than anything and strongly believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to gain personal fulfillment and wellness. My beliefs reflect my values. I am an individual filled with intense emotion and passion and I seek meaning wherever I go. Thinking about cutting open someone’s body and removing their organs for my personal gain initially makes me feel extremely flustered and uncomfortable: How am I showing respect to this person? Where is the deeper meaning beyond this experience?

But let me be clear: I do truly appreciate and value the art of dissection. I took a chordate phylogeny laboratory at the University of Michigan, and completed full dissections of a cat and a shark. I will never forget what it felt to hold a heart in my hand and thread my pointer finger through the aortic valve. This made the heart real, and somehow, I felt more connected to myself. However, I must tell you that it irks me that we use the same word to describe the act of cutting through skin, tissue, muscle and fat for humans as we do with animals. We strive to get to get to the core of human existence; yet, I must ask: how does one examine the structure of the human spirit, an entity that defies the confines of the anatomical body?

As you can see, I anticipate this experience not being too easy for me. I also anticipate having many more questions, and it is my deep hope that some can be answered. For instance: Who was this woman? What kind of life did she lead? Did she have children… How about a husband? Did she make a difference? Will I one day make a difference because of the difference that she made? I suppose that these questions may disrupt my ability to freely and confidently cut into a cadaver. But must I really treat this person who left behind a family- and a story of her own- as merely a body with muscles, organs and tissues? Can I really disconnect this human being from who she really was, and who she really is to those she left behind? For me, the answer is no. And I don’t think that I really have to.

I understand that this once living, breathing, thriving human being was invested in my success as a future physician. This was her true desire. This must have been what she wanted. Henceforth, I will dutifully and honorably respect the wishes of this woman, and attempt to reconstruct this experience into something extremely meaningful for me, and hopefully for this woman’s family. Perhaps more connections are in store for me: A connection with a generous family, and a connection with another human spirit. These relationships surpass the superficial (no pun intended), and are constructed by the nature from which we as humans come from.

It is my hope to connect the human spirit to the human heart. I would like to personally meet and show my deepest appreciation to the family of this woman, who donated her body to my understanding of the human condition. I know that my affirmations for healing with be strengthened by this experience, but this will require my taking an enormous leap of faith.

Dr. Forbes, please know that I will try my very best to succeed, but forgive me if I approach this cautiously. I know that anatomical dissection will give an astronomical appreciation for the human body, but recognize that I am a sensitive soul, so this may take some time. Thank you in advance,from the bottom of my heart, for pushing me to be the best physician that I can be for my patients. I won’t let you down.

Best wishes,

Nicole Lederman