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Editor's Comments on 'Not Just Any Body'

 , April 15, 2017

In “Not Just Any Body,” Sarah Halbert explores the unique emotional experience of anatomy lab by retelling a candid conversation with her mother – one that we must only assume is ongoing at the essay’s conclusion. We don’t often ponder how our loved ones will contribute to the education of others, and what those contributions will mean for their future patients for decades to come. Yet every patient who seeks care at an academic center or other facility where there are trainees is, in some way, a sort of teacher. How often have we stopped to acknowledge this?


Halbert’s essay reminds us of how much invisible sacrifice is involved in medical education. We are all too familiar with our personal sacrifices of time and often, of health, relationships, and other interests, in the pursuit of becoming a physician. This essay reminds us about all the people who have also sacrificed for us by donating their bodies (or time or space) for the purpose of educating us.


Becoming a physician is truly a community effort made possible not only by our individual work but also by the innumerable people who facilitate our education - the people who donated their bodies, donors’ families, our teachers, our patients, our loved ones, the custodial staff who keep our learning spaces clean and safe, and more. There are also many who have unknowingly contributed to medical education and scientific advancement, unfortunately without their consent. These include the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis study, Henrietta Lacks and her family, and many others.


We owe it to all of these people – known and unknown – to approach our education with the utmost respect and humility. “Not Just Any Body” reminds us of what our communities deserve – because everybody is somebody.



Irène Mathieu