Surgical Anatomy, Fall Quarter, 1973 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Our junior year of veterinary school started with a bang. This was our first exposure to clinical medicine, and this was why most of us were here. But the rigors of the curriculum came as a new reality for some. 

We were at the clinic a full forty-hour week. We had classes that were sandwiched in between clinic responsibilities. Depending on your clinic rotation for any given week, it often meant arriving at seven or before and getting home sometimes well after six.

Some classes were elective, but the surgical anatomy class was required for the entire class. It was a full-hour lecture, twice a week in the old classroom upstairs over the clinic. In the early fall, it was always hot and poorly ventilated in this classroom. The seating was cramped, and the old wooden seats were hard.

“I know that most of you feel you know your anatomy pretty well,” Doctor Boer said. “But this class will concentrate on the specific anatomy you will encounter doing the common surgical procedures in veterinary medicine. I plan to hand out detailed notes so we can concentrate on the material and not have to worry about taking notes.”

“That sounds interesting,” I said to Ben, seated next to me. “I am not sure how that will work for me. I learn best when I write things down.”

“Ha, I’ve seen your notes,” Ben said. “I don’t know how you can read them.”

“I generally don’t have to read them,” I said. “If I hear the lecture and write down the important points, I will remember it.”

“Yes, but remember it for how long?” Ben asked.

“Well, I’m twenty-eight years old, so, for at least twenty-five years, I guess,” I said.

“You’re saying you don’t forget anything?” Ben asked.

“Pretty much, sometimes I need something to spark a recall, but if I can recall it, it is there,” I said. “Definitely, for the three months of this class.”

I collected my three pages of notes, poured the last half cup of coffee out of my thermos, and settled back in my seat. Doctor Boer started the lecture.

The room was hot, and we were at the end of the day. And Doctor Boer’s lecture just involved him standing up there and reading the notes. 

“What the hell,” I said in a low voice to Ben. “Does he think we can’t read?” Ben tried to frown. He remembered me getting him in trouble in Doctor Kainer’s class in our freshman year.

I sat quietly and followed along with Doctor Boer’s reading. I figured he would give a highlight or a side point somewhere along the way, but no such luck.

When class was over, we gathered ourselves up and headed downstairs, either to go home or to finish up things in our clinic rotation.

“I think I will have to save some more of my coffee to survive those lectures,” I said as we started down the stairs.

“It will be better when the weather gets a little cooler,” Ben said. “That room must be at the far end of the air conditioner duct system.”

The weeks wore on. The class would file into the classroom, pick up their notes packet, and take their seats. We were not assigned seats, but out of habit, probably starting in our freshman year, we always seemed to sit in the same seat, surrounded by the same group of friends.

I sat down and poured a full cup of coffee from my thermos.

“I’m beat,” I said. “At least tonight is the last night of my night duty.”

“That night duty makes for a pretty long week,” Chuck said.

Doctor Boer came into the room and picked up his packet of notes from the pile. He stood behind the podium and started reading. No small talk by this guy.

It was the middle of October, and the room was still hot. I sucked down the last of my coffee and tried to concentrate on the notes.

I woke with a jolt. Ben had elbowed me in the ribs.

I looked around the classroom, and everyone was looking at me. Some of the guys were trying to control a laugh. 

I looked at Doctor Boer. He was glaring at me, silent. He had paused in his reading.

“You were snoring,” Ben whispered.

After a full minute of constant glare, Doctor Boer started reading again. It took me a minute to find my spot on the page. I must have been asleep for several minutes.

The following week, when we filed into the classroom, there was no pile of notes.

Dr. Boer came in with his notes in hand. He assumed his position at the podium.

“Thanks to Mister Larsen, I have decided to do away with the printed notes,” Doctor Boer said just before he started reading.

Everyone in the class was scrambling to get a notebook out and start taking notes. 

“I think you’re going to be in the doghouse for a while,” Ben said.

“Everyone will function better taking notes,” I said. “This guy can put anyone to sleep.”

“They won’t be happy,” Ben said.

Ben was right, of course. As we filed out of the classroom and down the stairs, it seemed everyone had the same comment.

“Thanks, Larsen.”

Photo by Wokandapix on Pixaby.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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