Originally posted on The Differential on July 17, 2008
Medical school is filled with plenty of defining moments. During my first year, one of those moments was meeting you. I’m not quite sure what word I’d use to describe that time I first met you. Odd? Eerie? Creepy? Awesome? Inspiring? Solemn?
I remember looking at you, a little intimidated. You were the expert in what you were going to teach me. I was a little lost as to what I needed to do. I noticed your wrinkled skin. You could probably tell me a whole bunch of fascinating stories from your lifetime.
A classmate mumbled that you were old. But you looked calm and composed –- not at all like a rookie teacher. It was reassuring. I knew I’d learn a lot from you during the course of my first year.
I remember staring at the muscles of the neck in Anatomy lab. I was confused about which muscles were which. Was this the anterior scalene? Or was that the anterior scalene? If this one is the anterior, then that must be the middle. But wait, what the heck is this muscle here? Staring into a human neck for the first time can be disorienting. And it often only barely resembles the drawings in Netter’s Atlas. I lamented, but you offered no answer. Instead, you remained silent, forcing me to figure it out on my own. And when I finally figured it out, I thought I could make out the beginnings of a smile on your face.
Because I struggled, I remembered. And I did well on that first anatomy lab practical.
The rest of the year followed in similar fashion. I was stuck and confused. You stuck to your teaching method. At least you were consistent. Regardless, you stayed right beside me all along.
I came to accept your method of teaching and even found your silent presence calming — even if I often wished for you to just speak up and point out what I was looking for.
I just wanted to write this note to say thank you. I’m sorry you will never get to read this. At the memorial service we held for all those who had donated their bodies to our Anatomy program, I sat quietly and looked around. There were plenty of family members there to remember and celebrate their loved ones. I couldn’t help but wonder if your family was there.
Was it that old lady wiping away tears? Was it the young lady who sat proudly as her loved one was appreciated by so many students? I don’t know; I’ll never know.
I never knew your name. But I knew your face. I knew your arms, your hands, and your legs. I knew you inside and out. And I know that you have give 100% of yourself so that I could be a better doctor. Thank you, Professor.