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A Piece of My Mind
August 15, 2001

The Most Primitive Sense

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(7):766. doi:10.1001/jama.286.7.766

I cling to the lamppost on the city corner, my heavy anatomy book clutched to my chest for ballast against the strength of the winter wind. Sleepy from my all-night marathon study, I smell fresh snow off the lake as I recite the mnemonic for the 12 cranial nerves. Only garbage collectors and surgery residents are awake at this hour. I'm on my way to the lab to finish my dissection before Dr Burns arrives at 8 AM to test my knowledge of the old, leathery, formaldehyded man. I'll never get over the cadaver's stench, a mixture of vinegar and burnt rubber. When I leave the lab, strangers on the elevator move to the farthest corner. No matter how many times I wash, death still clings to my hands.

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