Monday, November 30, 2009

Mock Anatomy Spotter: About as Hip as a Mock Turtleneck Sweater

(mock turtleneck)

When I was 20 I dated a guy who was in medical school. I remember him telling me about the anatomy spotter exam (they called it a 'bell ringer'). It sounded ugly to me. I envisioned all these really nerdy science freaks staring at bits of bone and looking into microscopes with a loud gong going off every minute or so. People would get so stressed that they'd vomit or get nosebleeds, fainting also wasn't totally uncommon.

I remember thinking...someday I'm going to have to do one of those and I know that I am not going to like it. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of having your cerebellum slapped with a hockey stick (which is what I equate the experience to) this is how it goes.

You sit down, there are 10 people or so in your circuit. In front of you is a laminated 8x10 of something, either a CT image, a dissection image, an xray, an MRI, a photo of a bone, a electron micrograph of an embryo or a photo of a histology slide. You have 2 minutes to answer the two questions, a bell rings and you get up and move to the next set of images/questions.

In the case of my evil anatomy prof the questions were not, "what is a" or "what is b" they were things like "if 'a' is damaged which structures will be affected and how?" or "what is the metabolic process occurring at 'a'?" or "what genes are expressed to ensure differentiation at 'b'?" Of course it wasn't only 4 options, but 8 to choose from as well. Thanks so much for that.

Yeah. It was ugly. And the thing that irritated me was the complete lack of clinical relevance to most of the exercise. Yes I do believe that you have to know your anatomy so well that you can answer questions under pressure in a rapid fire way....but in the 'real' world I am never going to have an unlabeled histology slide sitting in front of me with a patients life hanging in the balance while I figure out if it is from his spleen or his seminiferous tubule. Come to think of it, I am NEVER going to have a histology slide in front of me clinically...ever. That is what lab reports are for. Nor am I going to be staring at the saggital section of a fox jaw trying to decide if the cleft would be in between the canines or the incisors if "a" doesn't fuse with "b".


Ok my rant is done. I suppose that the exam had the desired effect: it scared the rubber boots right off me. Hence my 7 hours of dedicated examination of all-things-laryngeal on Sunday rather than reading my fantastic book (Shantaram by Gregory Roberts) or watching the flood waters rise outside the medical sciences building.

(mock spotter)

Courtesy of here.


OMDG said...

If it makes you feel better, I didn't even know that was a testicle. I was thinking, "What a funny looking piece of small intestine."

Albinoblackbear said...

Hahah, exactly my point. It is just so irrelevant. Even a classmate who has a masters in medical lab and was like WFT after the exam pointed out, "you always have the req telling you what was sampled and where when you are examining something under the microscope".

Maha said...

I hated bell ringers with a passion. Granted I wasn't in medical school but looking at different plant and fungus cross sections didn't really float my boat. So far a patient's life hasn't been lost because I failed to identify the unique features of chyrosporium under a microscope.

Quasi Serendipita said...

I have to say, anatomy spotters were my most dreaded exams (we had real specimens, not pictures - and the smell of formulin really didn't help my exam nerves!)

Albinoblackbear said...

Maha--Yes, the hoops. What my mother refers to as exercises in 'unimportant urgency' memorizing genes involved in gastrulation (or identifying features in chyrosporium) instead of writing the thank-you letter you've been meaning to do for 2 months...or going skiing on a sunny day.

QS--Ok that is my one relief about not having real specimens...I get completely nauseated/headachey from the formalin smell...I couldn't imagine trying to concentrate through that.