Anatomical Dissections - Past and Present

Later this week, Washington University in St. Louis will be hosting the 2017 Vascular Access Society of the Americas (VASA) Hands-On Practium on Hemodialsis Access. Hundreds of health professionals will be attending to learn more about the latest in vascular access (VA) procedures.

One of the activities available for VASA attendees is a viewing and presentation of human anatomical structures related to VA procedures in the upper limb. Today, some of the WU-SOM anatomy faculty dissected fresh (not embalmed) anatomical specimens, which we'll be presenting for the VASA activity. This was my first-ever dissection of fresh human tissue, and I'm truly honored and humbled to have had the experience.
Drs. Krikor Dikranian (middle), Ritzman (right), and Morhardt (left) are the WU-SOM anatomists
who prepared specimens for VASA.

Human anatomical dissection dates back well over two millennia to Greek physicians in Alexandria. For much of the time since, human dissections were either outlawed or conducted on fresh tissue. However, starting around the time of the American Civil War, embalming became a standard practice in Human Anatomy labs. As such, it is rare for modern human anatomists to dissect fresh specimens.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Rembrandt, 1632
Public Domain, The Hague

Today's experience connected me to thousands of years of anatomical history, as well as to some of the most cutting-edge medical techniques available. But really, that's pretty normal for me, as bridging the gap between the past and present is what I really love to do.

Thanks to Dr. Krikor Dikranian, WU-SOM Continuing Medical Education, VASA conference staff, and Dr. Terry Ritzman for making this experience one to remember!

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