A fascinating exploration of the medical student's most decisive course -- gross anatomy -- and of the intellectual, emotional and spiritual transformation that turns young men and women into doctors
Medical Gross and Developmental Anatomy is a course every medical student dreads. As one future physician told the author, Steve Giegerich, passing the notoriously difficult course is "paying your dues for medicine. It's the bridge you have to cross if you want to become a doctor."
More students leave medical school during this course than any other. Now Body of Knowledge puts readers in the classroom as potential doctors come face-to-face with their first human cadaver and dissects the factors that determine whether they succeed or fail.
In January 1999, 181 students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, Newark, began a course in gross anatomy. Among them were Sherry Ikalowych, a former nurse and mother of four; Jennifer Hannum, an ultracompetitive jock; Udele Tagoe, a determined Duke graduate of Ghanian descent; and Ivan Gonzalez, a Nicaraguan refugee and unlikely medical student. For these four lab partners, Tom Lewis, the cadaver lying on the stainless steel table, remains anonymous during dissection; but for the reader, Lewis springs to life. As the students grapple with love, hate, power and awe, Giegerich explores Lewis's life and his generous decision to donate his body to science. Ultimately, as the students gain reverence for medicine, they too develop gratitude for Lewis's thoughtful gift.
Father Edmond Music is no model priest. For one thing, he is a stone cold atheist. For another, he has been a sexual athlete in his time, and still sleeps with his housekeeper, Maude Moriarty. Not only has he enjoyed a robust sex life, he's profited from it: his lover nearly 50 years before, in the 1950s, English Lady Violet Devlin ("Kiki"), gave the church her inherited family seat, Beale Hall, to be turned into a scholarly Catholic retreat with the proviso that Music be its director general. These blips on Music's moral radar don't bother him, really but he is irked by what he sees as the bloody strain of anti-Semitism in the church and his complicity in it. Music was, after all, born a Jew. In occupied France, his parents thought it the better part of valor to have him convert before they disappeared his mother to a concentration camp, his father into hiding in the French countryside and, eventually, to Israel. Music's immediate worry, and the gambit for the novel's intrigues, is the investigation mounted by his old enemy, Father Twombly, into the mysterious transfer of a reputed Shakespeare manuscript from the Beale Hall library to a private bookseller in Paris. While Music races around trying to prevent the exposure of that transaction, Maude, inching toward 70, is becoming poisonously disillusioned with her lover. Isler (The Prince of West End Avenue,winner of the National Jewish Book Award) mixes the Jewish comic tradition and the high church comedy of Waugh and Murdoch to produce this scathing yet touching farewell to faith, hope and charity in the mad, bad 20th century.