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First-Year Gross Anatomy Experience Yields Study Publications for SOM Students

Studies Underscore Value of Gross Anatomy Program at NYMC Versus Virtual or Holographic Experience

March 27, 2023
Penelope Farris and Ami Merker
Penelope Farris and Ami Merker

Several School of Medicine (SOM) students gained more than just hands-on experience in the gross anatomy lab during their first year of medical school. They also had the opportunity to impact future medical practice with the recent publications of case studies on Petit’s (inferior lumbar) hernia in the Medical Student Research Journal and on renal and gonadal vasculature in the International Journal of Medical Students.

“These studies underscore the value of the cadaver dissection program that is offered at NYMC versus a virtual or holographic experience. None of those latter modalities show variations or anatomic anomalies such as those reported in these two studies,” said Daniel F. Peters, M.D., FACS, associate professor of cell biology and anatomy and director of anatomy and embryology, who served as advisor to these students. “This experience introduces students to the processes of investigating and publishing in peer-reviewed journals. We try to make the most out of what is already a very exciting time for them. On average, from discovery to publication, the work required and the process for publishing each of these projects took three to four years. The devotion and effort demonstrated by these students show them to be exceptional and dedicated professionals.”

With only approximately 300 reported cases in the literature, lumbar hernias are notably rare, and because of this are frequently misdiagnosed as lipomas, fibromas, hematomas or abscesses. “Wrongful diagnosis can cause a delay in or lack of appropriate treatment, which can then lead to further complications,” said Brandon Ballane, SOM Class of 2023, one of the student authors on the study. “Our paper, ‘A Case of Petit’s Hernia Presenting as Bilateral Lipomata of the Back,’ encourages the surgical community to keep the diagnosis of lumbar hernia in mind when evaluating subcutaneous masses and lipomata in this region. Because lumbar hernias slowly expand in size over time, early diagnosis is integral to prevent ischemia of herniated intestine, which may lead to death.”

The “Cadaveric Study on the Anomalous Origin of Renal and Gonadal Vasculature” focused on cadaveric findings in males that demonstrate unilateral and bilateral variations of testicular arteries, one originating from an aberrant renal artery and the second from an accessory renal artery. “Due to the increasing prevalence of kidney transplantation, a greater awareness of variations in the surrounding vasculature is surgically important,” said Penelope Farris, SOM Class of 2023, one of the student authors on the study. “By increasing awareness of anomalous testicular arteries, we sought to encourage the standardization of preoperative vasculature exploration to both minimize intraoperative risk to living male kidney donors and increase patients’ understanding of the potential risks and complications before consenting to the procedure.”

Beyond the opportunity to impact future medical practice with their findings, the experience also offered personal and professional fulfillment. “Participating in this research project taught me a lot about what is required to work on research, while balancing a large workload,” said Farris. “I’m grateful that I was able to push myself outside of my comfort zone to work on a topic that was new to me. Having this experience early in my medical career built up my confidence to participate in research moving forward.”

“Working on the research was a good opportunity to collaborate with one of our faculty members,” said Ami Merker, SOM Class of 2023. “Building these types of relationships is incredibly important in medicine and our case report gave us the chance to start learning about making those connections early on in our careers. Doing the research also gave us an opportunity to do a bit of work outside of the classroom which is always refreshing in the first two years of med school.”

Additional SOM Class of 2023 student authors include: for the hernia study -– Mark Berkowitz, Josselyn Galdamez, Olivia Gellerson, Sirajul Islam, Catherine Morse and Nicholas Rich; and for the vasculature study – Dylan Macciola, Lauren Barazani, Justin Nathan and Danielle Quinn.