Body of Knowledge

Body of Knowledge

One Semester of Gross Anatomy, the Gateway to Becoming a Doctor

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A fascinating exploration of the medical student's most decisive course -- gross anatomy -- and of the intellectual, emotional and spiritual transformation that turns young men and women into doctors

Medical Gross and Developmental Anatomy is a course every medical student dreads. As one future physician told the author, Steve Giegerich, passing the notoriously difficult course is "paying your dues for medicine. It's the bridge you have to cross if you want to become a doctor."
More students leave medical school during this course than any other. Now Body of Knowledge puts readers in the classroom as potential doctors come face-to-face with their first human cadaver and dissects the factors that determine whether they succeed or fail.
In January 1999, 181 students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, Newark, began a course in gross anatomy. Among them were Sherry Ikalowych, a former nurse and mother of four; Jennifer Hannum, an ultracompetitive jock; Udele Tagoe, a determined Duke graduate of Ghanian descent; and Ivan Gonzalez, a Nicaraguan refugee and unlikely medical student. For these four lab partners, Tom Lewis, the cadaver lying on the stainless steel table, remains anonymous during dissection; but for the reader, Lewis springs to life. As the students grapple with love, hate, power and awe, Giegerich explores Lewis's life and his generous decision to donate his body to science. Ultimately, as the students gain reverence for medicine, they too develop gratitude for Lewis's thoughtful gift.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743218238 | 
  • September 2001
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Chapter One

At mid-morning on Tuesday, April 1, 1997, a late-model station wagon, ordinary but for the smoked glass obscuring its rear windows, turned from South Orange Avenue into the main entrance of the New Jersey Medical School parking lot. From the driveway, the car made a hard left, descending immediately down a ramp leading to a submerged loading dock.

Because the height of the dock accommodated trucks, not cars, the driver parked off to the side. Unlatching the tailgate, he slid his delivery from the vehicle. Workers in another venue might have been unsettled by what emerged from the cargo hold, but in this environment no... see more

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