The Privilege and Promise of Medicine by Dave Midthun, MD

The Door of the Anatomy Lab

Entering the door to medical school wasn’t the one that changed my life – that distinction belongs to the door of the anatomy lab. Coming to grips with my mortality, as well as recognizing the absolute lack of visual identity below the skin, was the cost of the opportunity to hold someone else’s aorta. ‘The First Patient’ eloquently exposes this transition (part of which is immediate, part of which is a marinade much like the body in formaldehyde) that turns a fortunate, yet innocent student into a tempered physician – able to keep focus while staring death in the face.

Intricacies of the Donor’s Body

The relationship of medical student to the cadaver is most bizarre. The donor gives of her or his body to the greater good and anonymity of science; the student, having never met them living, learns the intricacies of the donor’s body in greater personal detail than anyone they’ll ever meet before or after. A relationship that leaves the student with a wealth of knowledge and forever in debt and, in any other context, would result in life imprisonment. The experience could be a traumatic horror but, properly prepared, is raw and joyful learning.

The Priviliege and Promise of Medicine

Chip Duncan and crew capture the essence of physician birth. A mosaic of dramatic photography and sensitive personal reflection, this documentary singularly elevates the medical degree to a point nearly everyone will admire. Examining the promise of whole body and, by inference, organ donation, the film moves us to an altruistic point of ‘take me now!’ The student’s life and brain is forever expanded, and the viewer’s sense of what it means to be human – alive and dead – can no longer occupy the same space it once did. This is a successful attempt to explain the privilege and promise of medicine. The student’s brilliance is revealed as the donors’ light reflected.

Dave Midthun, MD
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
President, Mayo Clinic Staff, 2018