Georgetown Medical School educates with the whole person

VitruvianCura Personalis

Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press recently shadowed a first-year anatomy class at Georgetown University Medical School. Her article reveals some intriguing details: the first class opens with a non-denomenational prayer and “Georgetown has quit accepting bodies that weigh more than about 200 pounds,” after an embalmer injured his back preparing a heavy corpse.

However, that’s not what makes Georgetown’s a different kind of anatomy course. Georgetown, along with a host of other medical schools, is part of a movement in which schools are trying to give their anatomy classes better context. The school has revived its class curriculum to try to help students understand their cadavers as whole medical cases, not just inanimate bodies.

So before students enter Georgetown’s anatomy laboratory, they are now required to take courses such as “Physician-Patient Communication” and “Social and Cultural Issues in Health Care.” In Dr. Carlos Suarez-Quian’s class they are asked to remember the “humanity of anatomy” and to notice the unique characteristics that make up each cadaver’s story.

3rd year student Aaron Laviana described the change, saying “You learn to manage the patient as the whole, rather than just studying one organ at a time in anatomy class.”

More than 35% of American medical schools have started a transition towards this “systems-based approach,” where instructors use gross anatomy classes as a supplement to lecture material instead of as a stand-alone course. For example, as students read about the respiratory system in class, they may also be dissecting a lung and visiting a debate about tobacco regulation on Capitol Hill.

The rules in Dr. Suarez-Quian’s anatomy class also reflect the changing times: use goggles when operating the bone saw, and absolutely no pictures of the bodies on Facebook.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

2 Comments on “Georgetown Medical School educates with the whole person

  1. nondenominational, understand their cadavers as whole medical cases

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