First Time Visiting with a Cadaver--Wow--

I was on a tour of the school of choice that I would LOVE to attend. I am just getting into my pre-requs so it will be a few years…but I wanted to tour and give myself a visual of something to look forward to–something to charge me up.
I was thrilled because I got a tour of the lab and saw two students who were hired to dissect the cadavers for the incoming class. I spoke with them for about ten minutes and they showed me all of the different cadavers they were working on. Suprisingly, the visuals did not bother me. I was fascinated. This was my first time even near a dead body, let alone a body that was preserved and opened up.
The one thing that bothered me was looking at the thigh muscle…all I could think of was how much it looked like meat–specifically chicken. UGH I was fine until I got home and hubby made pizza and then I got SICK.
I am over it–and looking forward to continuing on my journey…to those of you whom have dissected–do you ever get used to it? If so, how? I am not particularly squeamish, so this surprised me.

Yep, I thought the same when I toured the PA school during my interview. The muscles looked the same as the muscles of the cat cadavers we were working on in undergrad anatomy and I did not eat chicken for a year afterwards.
(And I work off and on to help my in my husband’s vet clinic… the live tissue is just different than the preserved tissue.) But then the blood, pus, bones, etc. have no impact on my appetite.

Oh good, I’m not the only one. We’re dissecting fetal pigs in Biology lab. At first, I thought the poor little thing was too cute to cut into, with it’s little ears and tongue. And then once we did cut into it, I was a little grossed out. I find the anatomy fasinating, but I’m really not enjoying cutting through skin and cartiledge. I think my main problem is that I don’t feel confident in what I’m doing. Does this mean I’ll never be a surgeon? Do you ever get desensitized to it? Any suggestions for enjoying the experience more?

In my undergrad anat. class, we all started w/ our cats very hesitantly, but by the 3-4 session, were all in there to learn. I don’t think anyone had heebie/jeebies at that point. It just takes a little getting use to…
And the preserved cadaver looks much different than the live, functioning body. (See my previous note.)
As an aside (an icky one) our very new anat. lab did not have 'fridges for our cats! And over the weeks they decompensated to the point that we were unable to have our final cadaver exam. Thankfully, the school stopped using cadavers until the situation can be fixed. I honestly can not believe the lack of foresight on that one!

My lab partner was really excited because he thought we had a superstud fetal pig with a schlong down to his ankles. A quick glance at the worksheet assured me that that was his umbilical cord.

LOL Matt, good story!
In gross anatomy, I think all of us were pretty hesitant the first day, which was a morning class… not much stomach for lunch afterwards among the people I spoke with. By the third or fourth time, we were discussing places to go for lunch, and the highlights of their respective menus, while we dissected. A lot of it is just getting used to it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat meat but I got over it.
"confirmed omnivore"

Something about anatomy lab always made my group hungry. It got to the point that I would have to eat a snack before going in just so my stomach wouldn’t growl half-way through the lab. However, the steak/beef jerky comparison was the one I liked the least, probably because I LOVE steak but the comparison was so true

The only problem I seem to have had (and still do after three years) is this ever-present association of formalin smell and pizza. Like at most schools, our anatomy course occurs right at the beginning of school, along with all of the free-pizza-offering-come-join-our-association meetings. It seemed like every day, I’d leave the lab reeking of eau d’cadavar and go eat free pizza.
During second year, after a full year of formalin-free bliss, I walked into a lecture hall as the first years were leaving a free-pizza event and was overwhelmed with THAT smell again. Damn, we really reeked!
Anyway, I doubt I’ll ever eat pizza again without thinking of my anatomy lab. Of course, I’m on the Atkins diet right now so it seems like I’ll never eat pizza again anyway.
Take care,

I hate to say this… but after shadowing in the OR, I found it painfully easy to detach the person from the body… even when I met the people before they were put to sleep…
I think it’s kind of like… how children are so sweet and innocent when they’re asleep… but when they’re awake they can be holy terrors (speaking of my own of course)…
people full of personality when they’re awake, but when they’re asleep they’re just bodies… I’m somewhat disturbed by my take on this… of course, at the same time I would worry about how they would feel after the surgery etc…
it’s a lot easier to work on them when they’re not talking to you, at least from a surgical point of view.
As far as a cadaver point of view… I don’t think any of us could/would do live dissections… especially live awake dissections… when they’re dead/asleep, we can only speculate on who/what they’re really like.


Something about anatomy lab always made my group hungry. It got to the point that I would have to eat a snack before going in just so my stomach wouldn’t growl half-way through the lab. However, the steak/beef jerky comparison was the one I liked the least, probably because I LOVE steak but the comparison was so true

Hi there,
I am with Tara on this one. During Gross Anatomy, my taste for steak greatly increased when I was dissecting the muscles. I got so used to the smell of Formaldehyde that it didn’t bother me. Everything in my locker reeked of the stuff during first semester. The only thing that bothered me was mold and rot. (These do rear their heads during Gross Anatomy if the body was not prepared correctly).
We tended to eat more during Gross than at any other time of the year. As I have posted elsewhere, the favorite subject of surgeons after surgery is "good food and where to find it."

Disecting never really got to me, however; I still have a hard time with vomit.

baaaahahahahah… ok, that’s funny…
I got cured of any vomit phobias when I gave birth to the child that throws up if you look at him wrong…
just don’t make me vomit… that’s another story…
last time I got the stomach flu, if I had been near sharp instruments when I was in that delicate state, I would’ve done myself in…not pleasant…LOL