The dissection of a human body challenges all that we understand about life and death. During Gross Anatomy class, medical students are asked to face death - to pull at it, to dig it up and cut it apart - all in the hope of understanding life. Indeed, this introductory experience is considered a major transition toward becoming a physician. How students emerge from their medical training will set the tone for the relationships they will have with patients throughout their career.
ANATOMY OF ANATOMY, a book and traveling exhibition, combines photographs of a group of medical students during their dissection of cadavers in Gross Anatomy class with excerpts from journals they kept during the course. Meryl Levin, a documentary photographer with an interest in social issues related to health care, has long been intrigued by the intense training of physicians. This intensity was clearly revealed to her during her documentation of First Year medical students as they struggled to learn human anatomy through the generosity of individuals who donated their bodies to medical education. The making of ANATOMY OF ANATOMY fostered introspection among the medical students and faculty involved in this collaboration. The documented experiences and the multi-voiced accounts together create an important companion to traditional medical textbooks.

ANATOMY OF ANATOMY challenges students early in their training to learn more than simply the names and actions of the muscles and nerves in the body. It encourages them to come to terms with the mortality of others, and through that, their own. The power of this unique tool touches those within the medical school setting and far beyond. This publication and accompanying exhibition were made possible in part by a grant from the Open Society Institute's Project on Death in America.

All Photographs Meryl Levin

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Anatomy of Anatomy