Real Human Bones, Anatomage, and Soon a Cadaver Lab

Hello, dear readers! Today I am more than happy to take you with me on an imaginary journey around the classrooms of BEMC! The classes we will visit together are about one of the most important subjects in the pre-clinical years in any medical school around the world — namely, human anatomy!

Complex, difficult, and seemingly infinite, this subject is a milestone in the preparation of every medical student. The challenge is to memorize, the goal is to understand, and the trick sometimes is to imagine the vague concept of the existence of an obscure structure that may sometimes be present, may vary from person to person, or may even be absent! You need to worry…NOT! BEMC comes up with a creative solution to this problem! It provides its students with real human bones that come in several sets, with which you can distinguish norms from variations! The importance of this method of teaching anatomy is the ease with which the learning process is conducted. Usually, you will have lectures in the morning and then for an hour or so you will be allowed to gather in small study groups, aided by the professor, so that you can see what you have just learned, on real human bone specimens!

This type of equipment provided by BEMC has several advantages over plastic models, and this is a matter I want to discuss briefly. Firstly, our sets of human bones are natural, and thus all structures are unaltered and unmanipulated by human activity. Secondly, since there are several examples of each bone, the variations from one human to another can be readily detected. Lastly, the bones help us appreciate not only of the shapes, but also the innate principle in the construction of the bone scaffold of our bodies: minimal quantity, maximal resistance!

But this explains only a part of the story! To study things like muscles, the spatial arrangement of organs, nerves, blood vessels, and so forth, another device comes in handy! It is the so called human Anatomage, a virtual dissection table on which you can dissect a patient, removing tissues layer by layer, turning the patient in different positions and even showing separate organs and systems independently of the rest of the body. The Anatomage comes with several options, one of which, in my humble opinion, is also quite useful for learning to distinguish anatomical structures, during a CT-scan examination.

Real human bones, Anatomage, and practical lessons are great, but Where is the real medicine? Where is the real human tissue? anyone might ask! Well, during the first semester of the second year of your studies, you will have a subject auxiliary to human anatomy, called Macroscopic Organ Examination. During those classes you will discuss the clinical aspect of human organ anatomy, the principles according to which they work, and most importantly, you will be invited to see them in practice and closely examine them in a department designed for this purpose. If you are lucky, you will also be able to observe human dissection, as was our case this year! The patient was a fetus in the 36th week of gestation. The reason for the late abortion was uterine insufficiency. Amongst the organs we were allowed to see, was an interesting case of a gastric cancer, often referred to as linitis plastic or leather bottle stomach. The interesting finding is that this type of cancer doesn’t significantly alter the morphology of the organ. In late stages, however, it severely impedes peristalsis and when you knock on it, it emits a wooden sound, due to its rigidity.

This of course is not everyone’s cup of tea, and for sure not the most pleasant experience in the course of your six years of studies. It, however, is an opportunity not every medical school can provide! (For ethical reasons, I have chosen not to include pictures or similar materials.) And here is the time to announce the good news!… At the Policlinico di Bari the so called “cadaver lab” should arrive soon: “A promise has been set: it will be the first in the South”, say multiple respectable local newspapers! This one-of-a-kind laboratory for the South of Italy has changed its status of a dream, to a mutual goal, set by both students’ organizations and university authorities at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, which houses the BEMC course! The cadaver lab will not only take the studying of anatomy and other surgical subjects to a new level, but it will also give future medical students and specialists the hitherto unprecedented opportunity to develop expertise in the clinical and surgical fields!

I hope you enjoyed reading my post and I would be very happy if I managed to inspire you or give you another reason to become a part of the magical experience of being a medical student in BEMC Bari! I wish good luck to all those that will sit the IMAT this year, and congratulations to all those that already got accepted and started their journey on the long path of becoming a medical doctor. Now I leave you with selected photography of the Policlinico di Bari, and the snowy fairy tale in the end of February! Yes, it turns out that there is snow also in paradise!