Medical Students' Experience: A Few Hours in the Coroner's Office
Dr. Elizabeth Douglas orbited the cool, stiff body on its steel gurney, and examined the 42-year-old man's fleshy canvas of faded tattoos like an art aficionado in a gallery.
She committed each to her notes in painstaking detail and debated whether to use the word "cowboy" or "bandit" to characterize the dull, smudgy image of a horseman midgallop.
But that would be the last time the doctor would let herself consider who the man on the gurney once was -- at least for the next two hours, while Douglas ferreted out a cause of death among his organs and entrails.
To read more about what goes on in a coroner's office and how pathologists are trained, read the original article in Cleveland.com. Though I am not a pathologist, as a internist who teaches 2nd year medical students, I find that the special experience of a few hours watching the work of pathologists and their helpers in the coroner's office is a popular and thought-provoking experience for the students. The session provides an additional dimension to their experience with the deceased which was started in the opening days of medical school in gross anatomy. Though the coroner's office provides some refreshing of their knowledge of human anatomy, more importantly it emphasizes the complexities of human behavior and the diseases which lead to and terminate in death. Leaving the coroner's office, having been fascinated and perhaps a bit emotionally shaken by what was seen, by this experience, I think, the students will have significantly matured to the understanding of both what will be their upcoming clinical medicine challenges in diagnosis and treatment but also remind them, in case they forgot, about the, at times, unexpected or unwanted conclusion of all lives. ..Maurice.
Graphic: Coroner. Reproduced here as fair use. Graphic was copied from In the Opinion website.