Sunday, September 9, 2007

Anatomy backblog #1

We took anatomy over the summer, in a very sink-or-swim start to med school. Fine, they threw us a lot of life jackets. But the water was still cold. Anyway, here are some posts from the summer.

Anatomy is all about mnemonics. There’s so much to remember that without them, you’re lost in a sea of nerves and muscles. A few are actually found in the textbooks: SCALP, for the layers of the (yes) scalp, Randy Travis Drinks Cold Beer, for the brachial plexus, or Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle for the names of the carpals. These are generally useful, and sometimes surprisingly dirty. I guess every mnemonic needs something to make it memorable.

Then there are the mnemonics that we make up ourselves. Some have already taken their places in history among my classmates. For the pronunciation of the acetabulum, many of us – probably due to those agonizing years of studying chemistry – wanted to pronounce it with an accent on the second syllable, when really the accent goes on the third. How to remember this? Said one of my classmates: “I just remember that Tab tastes like ass.” Or, how to remember that the visceral layer is always deep to the parietal layer? Another classmate: “I think about VIPs: they’re never on the outside. They’re always on the inside, coming out. But never on the outside trying to get in.” Or, to remember that the Great Vein and the Left Anterior Descending artery of the heart run together? In a Scottish accent: “The Great LAD.”

Often, though, mnemonics take on a personal slant. They work for whoever made them up, because they fit within the organizational wiring of that person’s mind. I’ve had classmates try to describe to me their own brilliant mnemonics, in explanations that are more complicated than the anatomy itself. No wonder that each of our presentations usually includes a tip on how to remember things – if it works for you. We all learn differently, and each person knows his or her mind best. Well enough to know if he’s looking at lovers or just lunates.

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