First-Year Med Students Enter the 'Gross' Lab

Bodies lie covered on the dissection tables before lab work begins.

Bodies lie covered on the dissection tables before lab work begins. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu, NPR
A group of students work on a cadaver.

A group of students work on a cadaver. Melissa Block, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block, NPR

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.

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