The specific idea for the Online Guided Gross Anatomy Dissector began in the spring of 2008, when I was asked to create a tool to teach gross anatomy to approximately 200 Special Master’s students at Georgetown University Medical School that coming fall. These Master’s students would be examined exactly as first year medical school students, but unlike the medical students they would not have hands-on access to cadaveric dissection. However, the original idea for the Dissector began years ago when, as a medical student, I wished that there were better dissection instruction manuals. The manuals then—and still today to a large extent—provide few true-to-life images of dissections, relying instead on voluminous written instructions that students find dense and difficult to follow, and actual dissection techniques are impossible to learn. Luckily for me, my gross anatomy professor at Harvard, Dr. Elio Raviola, told me sternly one afternoon that in order to really learn anatomy you have to dissect. He then proceeded to show me how to dissect the lumbar plexus in what seemed like a few seconds. Wouldn’t the Gross Anatomy course be better if everyone had their own Dr. Raviola, who could explain the most intricate dissections in a few, clear sentences while showing you how to do it?
At Georgetown I had the great fortune to work with Dr. Brana Vidic, another gross anatomy master, whose guiding principal was always “make it clear for the students” so they ultimately become better professionals. Thus, in preparing the Dissector, I’ve been guided by the principle that “less is more” when succinctly describing how to perform a cadaveric dissection. I’ve presented original images, instead of copious descriptions, to convey each procedure step-by-step. An image, as they say, is worth a thousand words. My experience in creating the Dissector, and I hope yours is the same when using it, is that we grasp anatomical concepts much more readily from images, film, and a judicious use of text.
There are four students I wish to thank specifically for working on the Dissector. First, Brian MacLaughlin, M ’11, helped with many of the initial thorax and abdomen dissections. Is it any surprise that he is pursuing a surgery residency? Vinny Dimaggio, M ’13, was among the first Masters students to use the Dissector and then helped dissect the lower limb for the Dissector. Kyle Rove, M ’09, taught me how to use the 5D Cannon camera, which led to the timely completion of the overall project. Finally, there was Alex Trivette, N ’12, who volunteered to teach me how to film and edit the movies. Without these four individuals I doubt the Dissector would have been completed in three years. To them I give my heartfelt thanks.
Along the way several students helped dissect cadavers whose images made it into the final product. I wish to thank Benjamin Abrams, Peter Alexandrov, Mike Angeline, Malick Bachabi, Will Davis, Joseph Gill, Tamara Kelly, Katelyn McGovern, Do Nguyen, Allison Nauta, and Arjun Pendharkar.
At Sinauer Associates, Inc., I appreciate Andy Sinauer and Dean Scudder for sharing my vision for the Dissector and quickly supporting the project. Without their insight none of this could have been possible. I reserve special thanks for Sydney Carroll because her persuasion kept me on track when the editing seemed endless. Danna Niedzwiecki who edited every last period, comma, and leader, earned my endless gratitude for her expertise and dedication—even emailing me with corrections while she was on vacation. Kathaleen Emerson stepped in and flawlessly assisted with many editorial aspects of the Dissector. Jen Basil edited all of the art, over 2000 slides, so there is now a consistent look to each figure. Jason Dirks, Kent Gardener, and Nate Nolet, took the simple PowerPoints apart and reassembled and programmed them into the interactive online version you see now. Success has many fathers and I wish to thank them all.
None of this would have been possible without the gift of body donation by our teachers, the cadavers. Each year thousands of medical and allied health students are able to master gross anatomy in part because they can study directly from cadavers. All society, and I specifically, must express our gratitude to these individuals who even in death make it possible for the living to improve their general knowledge of the body and become better professionals in their chosen area of medicine.
I thank my wife Kathryn, whose support never wavered these past three years when weekends and evenings were off limits because of the Dissector. Finally, on the trying days when it seemed that this work would never end, I was always motivated to move forward by the conviction shown by my two sons in pursuing their dreams, no matter the difficulty: Harrison, a Marine infantry officer, and Benjamin, who raps with the group SOT.