(A glimpse into my life as a Vanderbilt medical student)

Monday, August 30, 2004

Cadavers and Cruises



“Being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.” –Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

I love this book. Not many attempts at humor make me laugh out loud, but I was in tears throughout most of Ms. Roach’s hilarious tome. I first discovered her work in Reader’s Digest; her “My Planet” column is one (albeit small) highlight of my month. Although I can’t quite discern what makes her so funny to me, I think it’s her tone. The straightforward sarcastic nature of her columns is carried over into Stiff and makes for one of the most entertaining reads of my first year of medical school.

On a side note, on page 56 of the book, she quotes Dr. Art Dalley, Director of the Medical Anatomy Program at Vanderbilt University, who, by the way, happens to have taught me anatomy.

In this same chapter on medical cadavers, she is able to capture the awkward feelings that first year students often have from dealing with a dead human for hours on end. (Not to mention exposing the myth of the “well-endowed” cadaver.) As her anecdotes continue, she explores other aspects of cadaver history including human head transplants and medicinal cannibalism with humor black as night but funny as anything. Required reading for the first year student.

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