When we asked our 1st-year medical students to reflect on the experience of dissecting a cadaver, taking someone apart to see how the pieces fit together, we were obliged to reflect in turn on their reflections. Five of us divided the class up and agreed to write a response to what they had written, drawn, painted, composed, photographed, filmed, carved, or glued in place. I dreaded the task. Not so much its gruesome aspects, an experience thoroughly soaked in formalin, but would I manage to find something unique and encouraging about each project and could I finish the job over the weekend? I would and I could and almost immediately I was caught up in the fascinating struggle to recreate and respect the people in those bodies.

The projects varied in skill, originality, methods, material, and point of view, but each confronted the central dilemma of patient care. People get sick and die and in doing so teach the people trying to take care of them. Each student in different ways pieced together the life of the person who made the donation. What they did, and our response, was a group exercise in loss, gratitude, wonder, and curiosity stirred into an awareness of the limits of expression and human understanding. Every issue of Hospital Drive is dedicated to similar attempts to say the unsayable, to portray the unportrayable, to find the comic in the tragic and the tragic in the comic, and to do so with skill and compassion.

Related Posts