Scalpels, Microscopes, and Latin Phrases

Here's an attempt to document my experience at chiropractic school over the next 3-4 years.

Quarter 1, Week 1

Umm... no. This week was so filled with orientations and first days of classes that by the end of Thursday I was wiped out. I was killing it in the study area though. Reviews every night, diagramming on the 4'x8' white board in my living room, and sniffing fragrant oils (more on my experimental study habits soon). I'm also pretty sure I aced the 10 question quiz that covered 160 definitions and terms. But, like my high school cross country meets, I soon discovered I went out a little too hard. Fortunately, unlike cross country, starting school with too much effort is better than not enough. I just need to back off a bit and make sure I get some rest in each day.

Quarter 1, Week 2

Most colleges and universities run on a semester schedule. Most chiropractic schools run on a trimester schedule. The courses at [University of Western States] are divided up into quarters. That, of course, means that we have a completely new set of courses every 10 weeks, with a 2 week break after finals. Except that it isn't always that easy. Since some of the basic science courses are meant to be just an introduction, they don't take the whole quarter. Case in point: Spinal Anatomy and Cell Biology. These courses started during the first week, but will be gradually phased out in the next two weeks by Radiographic Anatomy and Biochemistry. What this also means is that the courses go by fast. There is so much information that it's a struggle just to keep up with which class is next and whether I've eaten, let alone reviewing and studying the information that needs to be memorized – which is almost everything.


By far my favorite course is Gross Anatomy. We take 3 sections of it during the first 3 quarters, all of which include a lab. The fabulous thing about Western States is that each chiropractic student has the opportunity to complete a complete dissection of a "fresh" cadaver in a small group of 4-5 classmates. This is a pretty unique program; other chiropractic schools I visited had 2-3 prossected (already cut-up) cadavers for the entire school, that lasted them for years on end. Imagine, 7-15 new bodies coming into our morgue twice a year. That's pretty awesome. I have to admit it's a bit fun to dress in scrubs, grab a sharp scalpel, and play surgeon for a few hours a week. Of course, hacking away at a dead body requires nowhere near the skill of a medical surgeon (who I have heaps of respect for). Due to regulations, I can't share any photos of the lab or cadavers, but here's a website that shows the step-by-step process of dissection WARNING: These are graphic images of a real cadaver. Have a trash can nearby. I was a bit selfish and gave myself the honor of making the first incision. It's a bit tough at first (emotionally and literally) to slice open skin with a load of fat underneath it, but I got used to it quickly and have no trouble with it.

Diagram of Cell Membrane, including the phospholipid bi-layer and membrane proteins.


Surprisingly, I've been enjoying the class I was most afraid of - Cell Biology. I hated my biology classes at BYU, (except for freshman Bio with Marta Adair, which I took as a senior), and was dreading having to learn the Kreb's Cycle, etc. again. (Well, evidently we'll actually get to that in Biochem.) But I've really enjoyed learning more detailed structure of the phospholipid bi-layer and membrane proteins.

Histology of a jejunum cell. These wavy guys line your gut and absorb everything that's good for you.

Histology of a jejunum cell. These wavy guys line your gut and absorb everything that's good for you.

The best part about the class - the lab where we get to individually use $4,000 light microscopes. Light microscopy isn't anywhere near as exciting as electron microscopy, but at least it's something you can get your hands on. For some reason, I was never excited by opportunities to use a microscope in high school or my undergrad, but It's awesome now!

Latin Phrases

Of course, with anatomy comes a whole new language, mostly based on Latin. Ligamentum, latissimus, levatores, scapularis… all of these words come pretty easy to me. It's probably all the high school Spanish and 3 years of Portuguese, but could also have to do with my obsession with spelling and pronunciation. (FYI, it is lev-uh-tohr-eez and thawr-uh-koh-dawr-suh-l. They wouldn't have put the "e" in there if it was just luh-vey-tohr and thoh-rak-oh-dawr-suh-l just sounds weird.) But it's rekindled my desire to learn another language, so I downloaded Duolingo for the iPhone and have been learning Italian finally. "Io bevo l'acqua. Io sono l'uomo." Ha. It's kinda fun.

As you may guess, I am unfortunately due for another review of the origins, insertions, actions, and innervations of back & neck muscles, plus I need to do my preview reading for tomorrow.

Check back soon. Hopefully I'll have time after my anatomy midterm to share a little bit about my study tactics which are working great so far.