by Allen Shih

In the well-lit room, students bustled,
Dressed in scrubs, holding scalpels, and clutching Netters.
Not one spoke, but some did pray.
Today was the day.

With swift broad strokes of knives, we cut into the flesh.
Like lawyers on cross-examination,
sifting through layers of muscles,
we tagged hidden nerves and camouflaged vessels.

Beyond donning the white coat on stage,
Beyond the first patient hailing “bye doc!”
Beyond spending time alone with terminally-ill patients,
Anatomy taught us our first patient.

Enshrined in a place of learning,
A still woman with prominent cheekbones lay,
With slender hands as cold as ice.
Her blue eyes squinted into the night.

Photo by Nick Apostolopoulos

Mr. Shih (left) and his Learning Team partners, Photo by Nick Apostolopoulos.

Author Bio: Allen Shih is a fun-loving 4th year medical student at Yale University School
of Medicine, currently pursuing research while enrolled in a 5-year MD-MBA program. He grew up in New Jersey and went to college at Harvard. Years after taking anatomy lab, it is still hard to put the experience into perspective. At Yale, students hold an annual “Service of Gratitude” in which we commemorate the lives of our anatomy donors. They provided radically for our medical education. They gave us everything. The least we can do is offer up a token of thanks.  You can email Mr. Shih at:

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One comment on “Gratitude

  1. humanemedicine on said:

    from Brian T. Maurer, Tariffville, CT

    Buried within the lines of this poem,
    an innocence of sorts resides:
    joyful gratitude wells up
    at the cusp of a career in medicine,
    preserved just so,
    like the cold blue-eyed corpse
    lying on the anatomy lab table.

    Soon such sentiment will be lost
    amidst the overwhelming fatigue
    and demands of medical practice.

    Cherish the moment, young student—
    for like your comrades-in-arms,
    you are not immune
    to these professional violations
    of the soul.