19 March 2007

Microanatomy or Histology

This course was second semester first year at my medical school. It was a combination of Cell Biology and Histology lab. The material presented here was in the form of lectures with lab in the afternoon. We were given slide boxes for each exam. Each slide box contained slides of all tissues and structures that we were required to master for each of the three sections. I was pretty fortunate here in that my undergraduate Histology course was more rigorous as far as the lab was concered but this course was far more comprehensive than my undergraduate course. We also were required to be able to identify electron micrographs in this course.

After I received my slide box, the first thing I did was take some lens paper and Windex to clean each slide. Next I organized them according to each lab and topic. At the end of this task, I had a box of shiny slides that were in order. I purchased a small slide box (one that would hold about 10 slides at a time) for transporting my slides between home and school. I kept a microscope at home in addition to the scope that was issued to me at school. This was not necessary but I looked reviewed my slides on a daily basis.

Our Microanatomy syllabus contained excellent notes which the instructors followed quite closely. In addition, I used the Wheater Atlas for reference and the Lange Histology as a text. I would preview the material in the syllabus, read the sections of the text and study the slides using the Wheater Atlas ahead of time. Then I could go to class knowing what to listen for and make sketches of things that were shown in class. Some lectures like cell adhesion molecules or cell signalling took more time than others.

During lab, I would look at the demonstrations and look at as many slides as I could. If I could pick out the structures on any slide, this was a good indication that I knew the material. I wanted to be sure that I could recognize the normal because pathology in the next year would place emphasis on the abnormal.

Microanatomy is not well tested on USMLE Step I but the course presents some topics that were vitally important in other classes such as pathology. By being totally familiar with the normal, it made study of the abnormal a bit easier. Many of the same skills that allowed me to excell in Microanatomy allowed me to excell in pathology. I became quite adept at being able to identify structures based on their microscopic characteristics. The electron micrographs brought many aspects of physiology and biochemistry to life as I examined the cells and their characteristics.

I found Neurohistology especially interesting because the neural structures microscopically, looked far different from the cartoon representations found in most textbooks. It was interesting to learn the characteristics of most types of stains and immunohistochemistry. At the end of my Microanatomy course, I had a deeper understanding of how to correlate and identify structures and link these structures with their functions.

As with most medical school courses, keeping up is crucial to doing well. Microanatomy was very easy to keep up with. The course was not as volume intense as Gross Anatomy and far less concept intense as Physiology. For me, this course was a welcome change from sitting in lecture or spending hours in lab. Again, there were topics such as cell adhesion or cell signalling that were covered so thoroughly in Microanatomy that by the time we reached Pathology and Pharmacology, these subjects were second nature.

Since I had something of a "handle" for microanatomy, I spent loads of time helping my classmates who had problems. We had loads of teaching scopes and we would often study as a group. Again, my medical class was quite cooperative which made learning fun.


Anonymous said...


I just wanted to thank you for your blog. It's been very interesting and helpful as someone who will be starting med school in August.

Since you seem to be really on top of your organization skills, I was wondering if you could recommend a computer-based calendar program to organize coursework, deadlines, meetings, etc. I used iCal in college and was happy with that, but I will be using a PC next year, so I need to find something new. Any recommendations would be appreciated!



Drnjbmd said...

Shameless plug here but Google has some great calendar programs as does Yahoo. You can sign up for G-mail or Yahoo mail and these things are free.

If you have Microsoft Office loaded on your computer (most schools do) you can set up your calendar in Outlook. You can print off your schedule hour by hour too. If you purchase a PC (or one is provided for you by your school)you are likely to have Outlook already on the computer (comes a an academic bundle)

Good luck and send me any topics that you would like for me to discuss on the blog.