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Dr. Christopher Ross, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Rush Medical College, Director, Cook County Emergency Medicine Residency Director
June 18, 2012

In these days of mechanized medicine, we forget that much of a physician’s practice involves a highly trained sense of touch. To develop and sharpen these lifesaving skills as much practice and repetition are needed as for any other motor skill.

Dr. Christopher Ross a nationally known emergency medicine physician, devotes much of his time and experience to providing a safe instructional environment for medical students, residents and physicians to practice procedures using whole bodies. As the laboratory director for the American College of Emergency Physicians, Dr. Ross leads two classes per year that attract 240 physicians from across the U.S. for training in procedures using cadavers.

In doing a procedure, a physician’s knowledge of anatomy is put to the test. Anatomy is no longer an academic exercise or a set of pictures when the doctor must perform a difficult and delicate procedure. He or she must know where, precisely, he or she must insert the needle or the scalpel.

For Dr. Ross and the physicians who have taken his course, it is a very positive experience. “There is no better other way to explain human anatomy than through contact with a human body. Simulators have come a long way, but they can’t replicate the experience of a whole body. For training, the whole body is truly the gold standard.”

For practicing physicians, many procedures are rarely, if ever, performed, but a doctor must be ready to perform them correctly when they are needed. “Practicing physicians are caught. It’s a scary situation. They may not have done some of these procedures for years. So they are grateful for the learning experience these courses offer.”

Dr. Ross teaches a similar laboratory for the residents in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, one of the most prestigious emergency medicine training programs in the nation. The residents in the program go over every procedure an emergency medicine physician will need in his or her practice. “Our residents are extremely well prepared as a result of our cadaver training.”

A crucial limitation that Dr. Ross encounters is the availability of whole bodies and their expense. “My residents’ lab uses only two cadavers. The course would be even better with more material. We don’t have enough and my department encounters budget limitations. Supply is important. We see the difference that cadaver training makes in the skills of our residents.” Dr. Ross is working to raise and maintain the skills of doctors across the country; the use of whole bodies is a vital part of that effort.



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