Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Anatomist

“They're transparent...” I said to myself, looking down on my spread fingers. I could suddenly vividly visualize the tendons and muscles, the connective tissue.

“This is a fabulous new view for me of the human body” I thought. I just finished reading The Anatomist by Bill Hayes. In telling the story of Gray’s Anatomy, Hayes writes in detail about med school dissections he audits to make his book more poignant. Phrases like “Leaving one side of our cadaver intact, we carefully dissect the other, exposing the intermediate and then the deep back muscles….” changed from abhorrent to fascinating. My ghoulish viewpoint became an observant one. Mr. Hayes described in words the amazing techniques of dissection, making them interesting and easy to imagine. I could not believe how clear his descriptions were.

The author says that after the gross anatomy experience, “You see life with a kind of picture-in-picture feature..” And I agreed.

I read half the book, then put it down for a few days. Picking it up later, I was surprised to see how low my retention was. What was so fascinating had become a little hazy. But then on page 172, an anatomy instructor, concerned about fewer anatomy classes as part of the MD curriculum, tells Hayes,

“…..there wasn’t really much new to discover in the body. It had all been found………but the real deal is, you can’t do medicine without it. ….Of course, you can make it a lot more streamlined. Teach it in a much more focused way. Doctors don’t remember any of this stuff. Ninety percent of what we throw at them doesn’t stick.”

Comforted, I read on to the book’s fascinating conclusion, boldly identifying with the student doctors' forgetfulness! And then I was entranced to see how all that anatomy on cadavers only helped a little to understand death. That death was still a mystery. I have seen two loved ones die and I have witnessed the shifting of consciousness that occurs at death. Like a light going out. Or happiness leaving the material world…Or….and oh yes! How the experience of the loss of a loved one is what you most anxiously want to share with……oh! but the one you want to share it with is gone!

I admire Haye’s attitude of respect for the cadavers and the people they used to be. I know a little more about anatomy now, and The Anatomist brought me a new view of the work of doctors, physical therapists and other medical technicians.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Education as Inspiration

Education As Inspiration

Rev. Father Stephen Sundborg underscored my view of education on a personal level today. In a Seattle Times editorial, he said this:

Never underestimate the power of education. A university education yields the best "return on investment" of any investment a person can make. Graduating with a $20,000 debt pales next to a working-lifetime earning power of $1 million or more compared to that of a high-school graduate. This doesn't account for the inestimable return on investment in the reflective and intellectually engaged quality of one's life. Even more important is the multiplier effect our graduates have in bettering society. One of the most satisfying parts of my job is knowing the significant things our alumni are doing and realizing that the university contributed to the human beings they are. This is the greatest return on an investment.

Having begun a community education class at Cascadia Community College, above, after a couple of years of not attending classes, I am again happily reflective and intellectually engaged! Also his ideas on mission:

Say who you are, then live by it. There is nothing more important for a healthy university than a president's clear articulation of its educational mission. The catchphrase is, "No money, no mission." But equally true for a complex, values-oriented university is, "No mission, no movement." The most important thing I've done in 10 years is articulate and embed in all we do our mission of empowering leaders for a just and humane world.

Again on a mini-local level, I influence my small world, and education helps me stay on track with my own developing mission.