12 June 2009

The Anatomy Exam

Fifteen years ago, I had a weird moment in an Anatomy Prac exam, and it is haunting me to this day. I need to blog about it.

I know that some of you readers have more delicate sensibilities and others of you have none whatsoever, but I believe that although this post is about -here it comes- the penis, it will not offend as it is discussed in strictly anatomical terms. If however you are offended, please accept my apologies.

Anatomy Prac exams are bizarre experiences. Deep underground in the anatomy labs, about 60 stainess steel tables are set up with a specimen on each end. 120 specimens with 120 questions for 120 students to provide answers to.

The questions attached to each specimen are usually very detailed. So detailed in fact that a pin is stuck into extremely precise structures or blu-tacked to bone with the point of the pin indicating a similarly precise structure. You don't find any general questions: everything is extremely specific.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to a station in my prac exam and was confronted with the following: a pelvis, male, with a pin stuck into the penis, and with the question, "What is this?"

Now the thing that surprised me was that the pin was just ... stuck in. Anywhere. Not in any of the superficial structures, not anywhere special, just ... stuck in.

A penis question would most likely be about the proper anatomical name of a superficial structure or it could be referring to an internal structure as indicated in a cross section. Or even a cross-section with the question, "What fluid does this vessel carry?" Or "what is manufactured here?"

Not a pin stuck in any old place with the question, "What is this?"

Because the answer would have to be "penis" and that's an answer for Year 4 Primary School Sex Ed, not for 1st Year University Anatomy. I'd spent ages learning all the specifics of every bone, ligament, muscle, tendon, nerve, artery, vein and organ in the body, and in the exam, they are going to ask me to name the penis?

I looked at the student who had completed that station before me. He was buried in the next question and showed no confusion over the preceding question.

I looked around the room trying to find the Candid Camera. I couldn't see one.

I imagined a scenario where there was a specific point I'd missed, and the real answer to the question was precise and complex (like the other 119 questions on the exam) ... the lecturer marking my answer rolling around lauging, calling the other lecturers over and hooting, "Look what this idiot has written! Question 61! "Penis!" Ha ha ha! Didn't she learn that in primary school? Ha ha ha!"

But, due to the random placement of the pin, there was no other answer to the question. I shook my head, wrote down "penis" and moved to the next station.

After the exam as my friends and I were discussing and debriefing, I asked them about it.

"Hey ... about question 61?" Blank looks. "The penis. You know."

"Oh yeah?" they said.

"Was the answer really ... Did I miss something? I mean, was there something more specific than ... 'penis'?"

"It was 'penis'," they replied, looking blankly at me. Their looks implied, "Did she find that question difficult? What's the matter with her? Didn't her mother teach her anything?"

And after a brief, disbelieving pause, they went on with their discussion. Again, I shook my head and vowed to forget about it and move on.

At the end of the semester, students are only awarded a grade. There was no way of getting feedback on which questions I answered correctly and which ones I missed.

To my amazement, I received a Credit for the subject.

But fifteen years later, with my degree on the wall and some successful jobs to my credit, I still shake my head and wonder about that question.

Could it really have been that simple?


Femina said...

I'm kind of relieved to see this is one of those rare posts where you didn't include a photograph...

My guess is the examiners are still laughing about the year when they snuck the random penis question into a serious exam.

Mamma has spoken said...

Well I too am an SLP (but here in the states) and I can tell you that I NEVER had to learn that body part in anatomy class. But then that was almost 30 years ago, and the class was anatomy of the vocal mech. It was taught by an elderly nun who had a tendency to bring in bones, hand them to you, then tell you to name a random part on that bone. One class she handed a classmate (thank goodness not me) a bone and asked her to name the bone. Forgot what her response was but the nun told her she was wrong. Turns out it was a chicken bone from her dinner the night before.....Still don't know how I made it through that class....

Heather said...

I think that there are many, many members of the human race (members *with* members, if you catch my drift) who would argue that the penis is NOT, in fact, "that simple" - and many, many memberless members who would quite obviously and correctly disagree......

Sorry I wasn't at my computer this morning when you messaged; I wasn't ignoring you - I was frantically running about the house getting Kiddo ready for the Flag Day ceremonies (she was class flag bearer for the parade!) and the subsequent Field Day activities (for which I'd totally slacked in preparation, sure as I was that it would be postponed 'til Monday due to the terrific, torrential thunderstorms we'd been having and the rain still coming down). With all the frantic-ness (what is the noun of frantic? Is there such a word? My brain's fried from hours of running the potato sack/three legged relay races for a bunch of pre-K through 2nd graders...) I turned on my computer to check emails etc as I do in the mornings and never got to it, nor did I remember my camera.

Bad Mommy Award winner of the day: me. :P

GreenJello said...

I always overthink tests. I totally understand you!

Joy said...

I'm the type that re-reads questions 10 times. I can't imagine just staring at that particular question.
Glad you got it correct.
Some questions in life just haunt you forever huh.


♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

That is the craziest thing! Was it actually the real deal? What happened to the man who used to wear it?

Was the test room really cold so the organs and so forth wouldn't go bad? Ugh! I could never study that. I'm such a weenie. Oops. I mean I'm a pantywaist. I'm a chicken. I would probably faint.

I really admire you now! Seriously. ♥

Givinya De Elba said...

"Mamma has spoken": We had to do full body anatomy and physiology - I painstakingly learned the 4 layers of intrinsic muscles of the foot (and they weren't on the exam!) and to this day I can still name the 8 bones of the wrist. All thanks to a rude mnemonic.

bfs-"Mimi": Twas certainly the real deal, the gentleman who used to wear it donated his body to science. Everything was pickled in formalin, so the room wasn't too cold. Not in temperature, anyway. Still - not a place I'd like to spend the night.

Crazy Sister said...

Yeah, I'd chalk that one up as a teacher joke. They could only think of 119 real questions, and had some fun with you.

I guess if any of your male speech patients suddenly disrobes, you'll be able to think, "Thank goodness we covered this subject at university."

Givinya De Elba said...

Reminds me of a 4 year old boy who recently jumped up during a session and shouted, "I've got Ben 10 undies!" and ripped his pants down ... the undies came with them, and there we were. A totally unexpected speech therapy moment.

Anonymous said...

I remember that exam & that question (probably one of the few things that I do actually remember about the trauma that was First year Anatomy). The person next to me said under their breath, 'Gee, I wonder what it could be' as I stood there thinking 'Could it really be that easy?'. Dani

Hairline Fracture said...

I knew there was a reason I never took Anatomy! (but I can still recognize a penis, I feel compelled to add). I do always overthink tests, though.

Jen said...

yes, sometimes it really is that simple.

CynthiaK said...

So sorry to hear that this penis (or rather, the question) has been haunting you for fifteen years! Now *that* is traumatic!

Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

lol. great post! I love it

Hippomanic Jen said...

You are a very funny loon, but I can't teaze too much because I overthink things all the time, too.

But it does make a mockery of one of your first year quotes of the year when the freshmen of a certain college had to streak through your classroom wearing nothing but a well-placed sock and you said later "Of course I looked, how many chances am I going to get to see a naked man?". As it turns out, thanks to the anatomy lab, plenty.

Givinya De Elba said...

Oooh, I VAGUELY remember that now! Why didn't I enjoy Uni more? It was an insane place!

Heh. I liked how you said "the freshmen of a certain college" where any U of Q student reading will just laugh and know exactly what you meant!

Sassy Britches said...

I do believe the penis is that simple...however, the beings attached to them? Not so much! :)

Mrs. Tantrum said...

I wish that we had gotten a question like this in exam, it would have been the one thing that I didn't blank out on and most likely would have passed with a better grade than I did. Maybe I should come to Australia and do University there...sounds more entertaining than it was here!