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A Conversation with Christopher Migliore on the importance of dissection in medical education
Revised April 4, 2012

“We named him ‘Ernest’ because we thought he looked like Ernest Hemingway. Our team was with Ernest from October through April and we always called him ‘Ernest.’” Christopher Migliore was one of four first-year medical students who began their medical education with Ernest as their guide.

Mr. Migliore, currently a second year medical student at the Rush Medical College, is describing his experiences in one of the most important classes in a physician’s years of training, gross anatomy, the study of features that can be seen by the eye. “One of the reasons I chose Rush because of its commitment to training physicians through dissection. I would have missed out on a lot because the human body is not flat. There are so many features that you just can’t get from an atlas. The layers upon layers of tissue can’t be seen in a video. A book can’t convey the amazing intricacy.”

When asked about the part of the body that was hardest to understand, he said it was the hand. “There is so much material in the hand. You take off the skin and the structures are just amazingly complex. It took us maybe six hours to dissect the hand.”

Christopher questioned the teaching of gross anatomy through computer images. “Doing dissection electronically removes the humanity.”

“Gross anatomy takes up a ton of time, no way around it. But the nine hundredth time you look at something, it makes sense. There is no shortcut to learning anatomy. It takes time. That’s what this course is all about. This is the time to learn it. I realized that I might never get another chance like this. This course and Ernest were like a huge road map with real world relevance.”

For Christopher, his time with Ernest was crucial. “This was my first exposure to death but this was a unique experience, invaluable to my education as a physician. I’m interested in becoming a surgeon and you feel like you are entering into becoming a physician through the 2:00 AM visits to the gross lab and by physically interacting with a human body.”

Mr. Migliore is grateful to have spent so much time learning from Ernest. Dr. Migliore’s patients will be grateful as well.


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