Monthly Archives: November 2012


in gross anatomy lab, we’re split into groups of 4 or 5.  each person has a specific role that we rotate through for each lab session: principal dissector, assistant dissector, and computer operator.

throughout the first half of anatomy, i hated being principal dissector.  i never knew if i was doing things the right way.  in general i shrink away from moments of uncertainty, so when i was assigned to dissect, i’d find ways to quietly slip into a supporting role again.  i’d say “i don’t know what i’m doing” and ask someone to help me, or i’d let one of the assistants tease out a nerve i was supposed to be working on cleaning, at least until he or she said, “wait, you’re principal today; you should be doing this.”  as much as it bothered me, i told myself that for the second half of the course, once our groups were reassigned and we changed to a different table, i’d need to get better at actually accepting my assigned role.

last week was a step in the right direction.

we were trying to find the appendicular artery, buried as it was in layers of mesentery and fat.  i wanted to hand off my probe to a teammate and watch as they did the job instead of doing it myself.  but this time, one of the assistants talked me through the process of teasing out the artery, offering advice and positive feedback (“that’s it.  you’re making progress.  good job.”) as we proceeded.

when we successfully identified it, i could have turned a cartwheel.  and my mind has been wandering back to this experience ever since.

someone else may think that this isn’t a big deal–just another structure to identify in just another 2-hour cadaver lab.  but the fact that i could take ownership of this small success, that it was mostly the work of my hands that made it possible, is exciting.