Reading "Learning From the Man Known Only as Him" [Winter 2016] brought back memories of my time in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 1973, my classmates and I strolled into the place we were most apprehensive about: anatomy lab in the aptly named Hunterian Building. We were quietly reminded of the expectations of those who donated their last remains on earth so that we might learn and help others. It was a generally dignified affair with four medical students per cadaver. Occasionally, a medical illustration student would come and sketch over our shoulders. The lab was scheduled, to my recollection, for about two hours per day, four days per week, for about three and a half months. It was always open though, and if we needed to catch up at night, we could. Few ever did.
The cadaver laboratory was not only a learning experience, it was a bonding experience. Not in the sense of bonding with each other but rather between each of us and our profession and its heritage. John Hunter, surgeon and advocate for the scientific method in medicine, would have very much approved of what we were doing.
Is cadaver dissection an archaic, anachronistic pursuit that wastes precious time in medical school? If the goal is only to instill a didactic knowledge of anatomy that can be measured with standardized testing, the answer is yes. If the practice of medicine in the future will be increasingly algorithm- and team-driven, the answer is yes. If medicine will be the product of "providers" working shifts, then the cadaver lab is superfluous. If, however, medical schools will continue to produce gifted and dedicated clinicians for whom medicine is not a job but a calling, the experience of the cadaver lab remains an essential ingredient.
Richard S. Goldstein, A&S '74, Med '77
Regarding the Winter 2016 story "Learning From the Man Known Only as Him": I graduated medical school in 1994, and I still remember the sense of awe I experienced seeing the mechanics of the human hand, the partnerships formed in our lab group, and the incredible gratitude that our medical school community felt toward the donors and their families. We learned anatomy, and we learned to respect the human body in the earliest stages of our journey as physicians. Irreplaceable, in my opinion.
Colette Desrochers, Ed '90
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
As a doctor of 31 years I can tell you that there is no substitute for a cadaver. Pictures on screens leave your brain. I will never forget the parts of the human anatomy that I dissected and held in my hands.
John W. Melton, A&S '81
I trained as a medical illustrator at Hopkins about 30 years ago, and for my thesis I worked on at least 13 cadavers with Ronn Wade, studying the vascular anatomy of the facial muscles and fascia. Each cadaver was someone who was loved by others. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of their legacy. They are teaching us beyond their life on earth.
Deb Mahoney, Med '92 (MA)
Bayville, New York
Send (Visual) Aid
I'm afraid I have to give two big thumbs down to Johns Hopkins Magazine's shabby treatment of the wonders of Pluto and Charon in the "Space Oddities" feature in the Winter 2016 issue. I should start by saying that the text in the feature is excellent and provides some truly fascinating insights into one of the solar system's most intriguing family members. Unfortunately, the illustrations are a travesty.
They explain little to nothing about what's described in the text. Rather than educate, these vapid scribbles trivialize the science and discourage the reader from developing any sense of understanding or wonderment over the remarkable discoveries made by the New Horizons spacecraft. If only the real estate squandered on these doodles had been given over to photographs of what the author describes in words!
I'm by no means against using graphics to explain phenomena, but they should be used only when they are relevant and treat the subject matter with an appropriate degree of reverence. National Geographic–style diagrams and cutaways would have certainly been appropriate. But sometimes photos of the indescribable are the only way to go. Being able to compare what New Horizons photographed on Pluto with what is familiar to us on Earth would have been an outstanding learning experience. I would love to have seen the geologic features the author refers to. But instead, the article provides only soulless cartoons, devoid of respect or inspiration.
Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor via email to email@example.com. (We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style, clarity, and civility.)
The opinions in these letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine's editorial staff.