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Cadaver Rounds moves what was a purely anatomical experience into the clinical realm

Cadaver Rounds animation

Table 19 used animation to showcase the unique opportunity they had to CT scan our cadavers. “We used the full coronal CT view of our cadaver as a reference to present each of our findings,” explains team member Abrahm Behnam. A screenshot of the webportal through which the students accessed their CT images serves as the starting point of their presentation. Images courtesy of the Class of 2017′s Abrahm Behnam.

A new twist on the traditional gross anatomy course is giving medical students an unprecedented opportunity to expand beyond basic anatomical observations. For the first time, they can send suspicious tissue biopsies to the pathology lab and even obtain a full body CT-scan of the cadaver itself.

Along with observations made during dissection, those results help them assemble a plausible clinical picture of the cadaver – a picture they then present to their classmates in “Cadaver Rounds.” In the culmination of the gross anatomy course, teams of students describe their cadavers’ major clinical problems, the typical prognosis of possible diseases found, suggest clinical or lab tests relevant to the case and, finally, a likely cause of death.

“Cadaver Rounds has moved what was a purely anatomical experience into the clinical realm,” says M. Alex Meredith, Ph.D., course director and professor of anatomy and neurobiology. The course now challenges students to observe structural anomalies in the body and then ask “what that person’s health profile was like and how those problems may have impacted their lives.”

That’s in line with larger curriculum changes the medical school debuted last year. The new course of study is clinically driven, using the preclinical years to encourage students to think of the patients they will encounter in the future.

With access to reports from pathology and radiology, students now have a self-directed opportunity to confirm, enhance or even refute or explain their observations in the gross anatomy lab. And in August, after all the dissections and other observations are completed, the student teams presented their findings to their classmates.

Cadaver Rounds animation

Table 19’s objective findings, integration and case scenario were presented along with animations describing the pathologic and diagnostic findings. Images courtesy of the Class of 2017′s Abrahm Behnam.

For Meredith, it was “perhaps the best day I’ve ever had as a teacher. The presentations were more than we could have imagined they would be both in content and in style.”

Susan R. DiGiovanni, M.D., assistant dean for preclinical medical education, was on hand for the presentations, too.

“I so wish we had something like this when I was a student,” she says. “I liked anatomy, but we didn’t much feel like future doctors as we toiled in the lab for hours trying to identify nerves, tendons, arteries and veins that had little meaning to us because we had no way of knowing how it related to patient care. There has never been anything like Cadaver Rounds.”

She remembers her own classmates discovering an abnormality during dissection and running over to other tables to compare it to what ‘normal’ looked like. “We never put the story together to think about our cadaver as a patient. Cadaver Rounds has the students looking at their cadavers in whole new light. They thought of them as a person. They wondered what their story was. They played sleuth to put the clues together much as pathologist would.

“I was astounded at the professionalism of the students’ evaluations and how carefully they thought about their ‘first patient’ in such detail. I couldn’t believe their creativity and incredible use of technology. They put many faculty to shame!”

The four teams who earn the highest scores on their presentation received the distinction of “Best Cadavers” along with copies of the recently published biography, “Medicine’s Michelangelo: The Life & Art of Frank H. Netter, M.D.”

2014 Cadaver Rounds Award Winners

Baughman Society Winner: Anatomy Dissection Table 10
Christopher John Hagen
Rebecca Anne Maddux
Lindsey Marie McKissick
Shreya Jagdish Patel
Samay Sappal
Metul Ketan Shah
Sherna Sarvajna Sheth

Benacerraf Society Winner: Anatomy Dissection Table 25
Claiborne Downey
Diane Denise Holden
Sarah Louise Hughes
Vanessa Monique Mitchell
Olga Mutter
Andrew Percy
Taylor Magruder Powell

Harris Society Winner: Anatomy Dissection Table 22
Jamaal Christopher Jackson
Michael Christopher Krouse
Andrew David Lyell
Ye Ri Park
Katherine Ann Pumphrey
Advaita Punjala
Megan Elizabeth Shaffer

Warner Society Winner: Anatomy Dissection Table 7
Harnek Singh Bajaj
Mark Raymond Cubberly
Maria George Hadjikyriakou
Samuel Micah Orwin
Vikash Parekh
Sarah Elizabeth Pauli Smith


Bequest creates scholarship in mentor’s memory

Thomas Poole

Thomas Poole, M’61, and his wife, Kay. Photo courtesy of Chris Gotshall.

Thomas R. Poole, M’61, grew up in a small West Virginia community. He and his family washed their clothes and their bodies in the town’s namesake, Briar Creek, and pumped drinking water out of the ground. That was more than 80 years ago.

From those humble beginnings, Poole’s path led him to medical school and to a fulfilling career as an obstetrician. Now retired and living in Palm Coast, Florida, with his wife, Kay, Poole recently alerted his alma mater that the couple has made provisions in their estate plan for a $1 million bequest. In doing so, they became members of the MCV Society. The planned gift memorializes Poole’s mentor and friend, Daniel T. Watts, Ph.D., with a scholarship fund that will support generations of students in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

In 1966, Watts, a nationally recognized pharmacologist, became dean of the School of Basic Health Sciences and Graduate Studies at the Medical College of Virginia. But Poole met him before that, when Watts was chair of pharmacology at West Virginia University.

“He interviewed me as I applied for medical school at West Virginia,” Poole said. “He knew I was a poor fellow and wondered how I was going to finance my family while I was in medical school. He offered me a job in his lab that would pay $300 a month for a year. That was hard to refuse. I got to know him very well. He was a man of great integrity. I couldn’t have been luckier to have that opportunity to work with him.”

Poole completed his first two years of medical school at West Virginia University before finishing his studies at MCV.

Watts touched many lives throughout his career. Lou Harris, Ph.D., vice chair of the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, was attracted to VCU in 1972 because of Watts’ leadership of the unique School of Basic Health Sciences, which is now a part of the VCU School of Medicine.

“A School of Basic Health Sciences was completely unusual in medical schools across the country at the time,” Harris said. “As dean in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Watts put together a group of fantastic faculty and associate deans. He was a brilliant manager and very encouraging of our working in the community particularly in programs to increase minority students’ interest in science.”

Under Watts’ deanship, Harris said, the school created a program that exposed high school students to on-campus lab instruction, and he advocated for the development of the Ph.D. program.

“With Watts’ help and support, we built a very large graduate and postgraduate program that has consistently received high national rankings. He was a good friend,” Harris said.

The Pooles feel fortunate to be in the position to memorialize Watts.

“I’m getting into my twilight years and want to do what I think is best because I’ve been so fortunate,” Poole said. “I thought so much of Dr. Watts who once asked me if the shoes I was wearing were the best I had. I replied, ‘They’re not only the best shoes I have, they’re the only shoes I have.’ The next day he gave me a pair of his own.”

This article by Nan Johnson first appeared in the 2014 summer issue of the Power of Personal Philanthropy.


AAMC features the Class of 2017′s Clay Downey in its Aspiring Docs series

Class of 2017's Clay Downey

Clay Downey has been featured on the AAMC website for his interesting, non-traditional path to medical school

The medical school has a reputation for welcoming non-traditional medical students onto the MCV Campus. One of them is the Class of 2017′s Clay Downey, whose inspiring story has been featured by the AAMC in its Aspiring Docs series.

Their website proclaims: “Clay had a business degree, no science prerequisites, and no experience in a health care setting, but he decided to pursue a career in medicine anyway.”

The feature got its start when the AAMC put out a call for non-traditional applicants to tell their stories. Clay saw it and volunteered.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my thoughts about the process,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if my story could apply to others out there, so I went ahead and gave it a shot.”

The AAMC’s web feature takes the form of a Q&A in which Clay talks about what sparked his interest in medicine and how he took it “one step at a time” on the challenging path to prepare to apply and enter medical school.

“I think being a non-traditional pre-med applicant and waiting to take classes later turned out to be a huge advantage,” Clay told the AAMC. “I already had a degree in business administration, so I was able to schedule only the classes that interested me. I tried to put together classes that fed into each other (i.e., physiology and anatomy), and I think it gave me a much stronger foundation coming into medical school than if I needed to work other classes into my schedule.”

Clay’s process interested the AAMC so much that they worked with him on a second story about his experiences as a medical scribe.

“I worked as an emergency department scribe for two years before medical school. This was the perfect job for me because it gave me incredible exposure to the day-to-day life of a physician, and really reaffirmed my decision to go to medical school.”