Cadavers, Casualties and Washouts

Cadavers and Casualties 

The reality is that the hardest part about Medical School is getting in. Admissions offices pride themselves on their ability to make selections, to the point that once you are in you must be a real jerk to flunk out.

That coupled with the fact that class sizes are small as well as the disadvantage a replacement student would have in catching up makes the school do every thing in its power to retain students.

But no system is fool proof and despite the fact of an automatic filtering element having been programmed into the equation of simply knowing that the student got trough college, along with some sort of excellent track record, mistakes can and do get made.

In fact, the first two years of Medical School are nothing more than bookwork and classroom training; otherwise known as “The Basic Sciences”. This is an extension of college style work but with a slightly refined focus because all one really must do in medical sciences is memorize facts and become familiar with textbook pathology.

The closest thing to a clinical or personal encounter is being granted the privilege of cutting up a cadaver, and trust me, the professors never tire of telling you how privileged you really are to be where you are and that your first great privilege will be allowing you to participate in cutting up a human corpse.

This was even though my groups’ cadaver was a John Doe donated by a mental institution that we eventually discovered when we dissected his brain, to have had a frontal lobotomy before he died alone in a psychiatric ward, an unknown, without family or friends.

Reminiscent of the events described in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” I wonder to this day who signed the consent for this poor soul’s barbaric cerebral disconnection procedure.

  • Yeah, this one’s trouble all right. First detach his irrational thoughts from his emotions. Then if that doesn’t calm him down, just go ahead and sever the spinal cord.

Yes, we had the great privilege of cutting up a person that society had thrown away, hidden in an asylum, and then mutilated.

That is also not to mention the great privilege of being exposed to formaldehyde on a day-to-day basis.

The cadavers reek of the stuff and I cannot believe there is no related health hazard because of that exposure: simultaneously having it on your skin, where it is then absorbed into your blood stream, then pumped up into your lungs and finally either exhaled onto your girlfriend or transferred to her lips when she kisses you.

Worse than Old Gommie Perfume, after several weeks of this exposure, the stuff made my pants stand straight up in a closet, not to mention the probable concurrent, slight pickling of most of my internal organs.

There is no odor on earth like the sickeningly sour smell of a formaldehyde- pickled human being.

It is a smell you carry with you to your own grave when you then finally get the full dose yourself. Hopefully however it is a retched stench that does not also accompany the soul on its journey to the afterlife, because if so that would make both heaven and hell alike into roiling stinking pits of noxious misery.

Yes, you students will all have the bona fide privilege of slowly poisoning yourselves while you chip away at nerves, arteries, veins and organs with your little surgical picks and shovels.

Then as you learn the anatomy of your own corresponding parts, those same parts of yours will concurrently become partially tanned like rawhide.

There were, however, two mistakes made by the powers that be in admitting members to our class. One involved an extremely bright student named Roland who became smitten by the Marathon bug and spent more time doing long distance running than class work. After numerous chances to get his act on the academic path and off the concrete one, the authorities declared him to be recidivist and had to let him go.

His peers were amused as well as puzzled as to what the attraction to running might be or why any one would really want to do it; especially for the tortuous trek of twenty-six miles. It just seemed to be unthinkably masochistic, if not incredibly stupid, although I now suppose in retrospect that Roland was an exercise visionary, which is all well and good if one can make a living at it. However, by the time Marathon run were paid; Roland was probably over the age limit to be competitive; and like the sliding scale of Golf prizes; it tapers off logarithmically form first to last.

The second case, a Black female student from Mound Bayou, Mississippi where Tufts had an extension clinic, who gained admission on the principle of affirmative action, was more pathetically sad.

She was poorly prepared; simply did not have what it takes, and her struggle illustrated the significant downside of accepting people because of mandated quotas as opposed to academic achievements.

She reacted to the stressful rigors of medical training by nearly continuous maudlin crying; while her academics could not even be rescued by specialized tutoring.

Although this behavior, accompanied by her incompetence undermined the morale of the entire class, to its credit the school did try its best to save her. It all ended however by being the tragic waste of a spot for a more deserving person, who some months before had been made to cry equally as hard over a medical school rejection notice.

Passing mediocre or failing students in general, whether it be in lower or higher educational stages, does no one any favors because sooner or later the lint comes out in the drier. It is most of all not fair to the student who is expected to perform up to false standards.

Forgetting school; what happens when they go out into the real world or get real jobs and then must face up to real responsibilities when they do not have the skill sets to adequately handle them.?

Hopefully it is not the case that Air Traffic Controllers are picked by racial quota systems as opposed to how well they can track or direct aircraft on a radar screen.

This goes not only for affirmative action, but also for Medical School programs that shelter bad actors of all races, colors, creeds and persuasions, with lousy personalities or poor skill sets, and do not expunge them before they go on to physically harm people or drive everyone else on their hospital staffs to drink.

The real problem with this type of tolerance is that because there are not enough washouts, the lint eventually comes out later at the level of poor bedside manner, poor physical or interpersonal skills, disciplinary actions, or malpractice litigation.

The real issue in Medicine becomes the instinctive or intuitive diagnostic ability to smell the rat, while in Surgery it becomes the learned skill to be able to cut it out of the healthy granary.


“There are rules to luck, not everything is chance for the wise; luck can be helped by skill.”

Baltasar Gracian


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s