Back Into the Swing

It’s been a week since I arrived back in Scotland, and it’s fair to say that we hit the ground running. Tuesday saw us back in anatomy lectures, this time breaking down the hindlimb into its bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves.

Honestly, the musculature of the hindlimb is named in ways that make no sense to me at all. Half the art of remembering medical terms is understanding where they come from. For example, the muscle ‘sternohyoideus’ runs from the sternum to the basihyoid bone. Sternum + hyoid = sternohyoideus. Elegantly simple.

But then we get to the hindlimb, and we meet muscles like ‘sartorius’. I looked that up after failing to find any other related structure with a similar name, and found that this word comes from the Latin ‘sartor‘ which is a tailor, because the muscle in man is used to assume a cross-legged position, which is associated with a tailor’s sewing posture.


Which brings me to another point. The crossover between human and animal medicine. There are many, many things that man has in common with his fellow animals. But then again, there are many, many differences too. One of these is that man is bipedal, but most species of interest to me are quadrupeds. So what?

Well, medical people of both varieties need to communicate to each other where something is in the body in relation to something else. This is orientation, and in the veterinary world we use the words (among many others), cranial, caudal, ventral and dorsal, which refer to things being towards the head, towards the tail, towards the spine and towards the belly respectively. Human medical people use superior, inferior, anterior and posterior, which instead refer to things being above, below, in front and behind relative to an upright human. That’s fine, but things are no longer above, below, etc. when an animal walks on all fours, it switches again when an animal is bipedal but often moves on all fours (think kangaroo) and again when it has no legs at all (fish, snake, etc). Part of me is surprised that medicine never decided to adopt the veterinary terms, because they’re very universally applicable, whereas the medical terms would begin to struggle in veterinary species. But the rest of me realises that medicine is too well established in its ways. And it works for them, so what does it matter?

Funnily enough, it matters to me because sometimes their terms of orientation get chucked in with ours unexpectedly. For the most part, we’ll be happily using cranial and caudal but, all of a sudden, we’ll be dealing with a descending colon and superior vena cava. For a second it threw me, because the descending aorta, like the descending colon, doesn’t descend through the dog. It travels horizontally.

And so this is where anatomy becomes most difficult, when the structures are abstractly named and the ‘real doctors’ have thrown in their two-pennies’-worth. But despite the hiccups in continuity, it’s still my all-time favourite subject! Especially because it’s one you can sit and learn with friends. A particularly productive evening this week saw Claire, Rowena and I playing anatomy pictionary in my pantry. We learnt a heck of a lot that night, and I’m friends with some pretty darn clever people.

Wednesday continued the hindlimb madness, and chucked in a practical using the fantastic 3D bone computer models our lecturer has created. There was more grappling with hindlimb structures on Thursday where we attempted to recreate the nervous supply using a dog’s skeleton, blu tack and scoobies. Not the easiest thing in the world.

But Thursday morning also provided a two-hour Clinical Reasoning class, where we were introduced to the different ways of approaching problems in general, and then how these methods can be applied to tackling clinical problems. It was a great opportunity to hear some of the stuff that goes through people’s minds when you give them scenarios. Something as innocuous as a dark room that stayed dark when you flicked a switch produced suggestions of serial killers and hauntings. Well, points for creativity!

We were then introduced to the subject of embryology on Friday morning, where we followed the progress from fertilisation through to the blastocyst. The next few weeks will see us follow this journey until we have a complete foetus. This subject even includes a practical where we’ll study fluorescing transgenic chicken embryos, that have been genetically altered across the road in Roslin. Pretty cool stuff.

To finish the week, we reopened the abdomens of our dogs and went back inside to uncover the blood supplies. This was a long, tricky process that, although interesting, I was relieved to finish. The blood supply to the abdominal organs is pretty extensive and multi-faceted. But it’s there, so ya gotta learn it!

We have another MCQ exam coming up this Wednesday, this time it’s for Animal Life & Food Safety (ALFS). This subject looks at the management and needs of animals of many species in both commercial and companion contexts, as well as the control and impact of diseases spread between food animals and humans. So it’s a case of head-down-and-revise from now on, because only 3 weeks after it come the really big exams. Yippee.

But, alongside the day-to-day goings on of the vet school, another adventure was unfolding for me. Ella, Rowena, Claire and I dotted about the city looking at accommodation for next year. What we have now are halls, but come September we’re looking to move into a 4-bedroom flat together. The options are many and the ones we saw were all fabulous, but there’s one in particular that I know stole our hearts. Watch this space!

By the time I write next, I’ll be on the other side of another exam, another step closer. So I’ll see you there!



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