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First-Year Med Students Enter the 'Gross' Lab

Bodies lie covered on the dissection tables before lab work begins.
Andrea Hsu, NPR /
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Bodies lie covered on the dissection tables before lab work begins.
A group of students work on a cadaver.
Melissa Block, NPR /
/
A group of students work on a cadaver.

Classes at the University of Maryland Medical School may have begun a few weeks ago, but for 160 freshmen dressed in scrubs, a real medical introduction didn't arrive until they entered the gross anatomy lab.

That was the day they picked up scalpels and cut into human cadavers for the first time.

Inside the lab, or the "gross" lab as the students call it, 34 bodies were laid out on dissection tables. Draped with aqua sheets, there was just a hint of the human form underneath. Before dissection began, course director Dr. Larry Anderson offered words of encouragement and caution: "remember that donor is -- was -- someone's mom or dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt… they decided to give you a gift, a privilege, to learn from them. And so use them wisely."

In part one of a series on gross anatomy and body donation, NPR's Melissa Block joins the students on their first day in the lab.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
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