Students and alumni at Victoria High School took part in a specialty pre-med school course that examined the structure of the hand and arm (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Students and alumni at Victoria High School took part in a specialty pre-med school course that examined the structure of the hand and arm (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Vic High students get ‘hands on’ lessons in anatomy

Students enrolled in a specialized pre-med course that studied the structure of hands and forearms

Senior students at Victoria High School got a unique opportunity to study in the medical field.

An inaugural course developed by local plastic surgeon Dr. David Naysmith and biology teacher David Young offered students the chance to study the anatomy of the human hand and forearm.

The extracurricular, full-credit course took place outside of regular class time and allowed students interested in pursuing a medical education the chance to go to the University of Victoria cadaver labs every Monday for six weeks. Students would study presentations organized by Naysmith throughout the week, and then help him teach what they’d learned every Thursday.

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Students were also able to then see how these lessons were practically applied by analyzing case studies from Naysmith’s own experiences doing surgery on hands.

“It was so cool, it was such a privilege to get into the anatomy lab and work with the medical cadavers and the medical community,” said Claire Troost, Grade 12. “We got to look at clinical cases which was amazing, and really inspiring to go into the medical field after this.”

For Karen Vasquez, Grade 12, the course helped her learn she didn’t want to become a physician, but that she’d still like to work in the medical realm in pharmaceuticals.

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“I realized I’m too scared to diagnose people, and maybe I’m more comfortable with chemicals,” Vasquez said.

Antonia Kropp, Grade 11, also realized that she didn’t want to become a physician but is very interested in still taking on a medical career as an emergency responder. Aside from what they’d learned in the lab, Kropp said they learned valuable life lessons.

“This course taught so many things, and not just knowledge-wise but also personality and character,” Kropp said. “You really get to know your interests, it’s a really good character life-building course that you’ll refer to throughout your life.”

Naysmith is a Vic High graduate himself, and now works as a plastic surgeon in local hospitals and also as a clinical professor in surgery at the University of B.C.

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He said he chose to teach about the upper extremity because of how accessible it is to understand.

“It’s very functional, you can teach anatomy and then look at the functional consequences of what goes wrong; What if you cut a tendon, what happens? If you cut a nerve, what happens?,” Naysmith said. “It went really well and the kids, for the most part, actually did much better than I thought.”

Vic High teacher David Young picked out students he knew were interested in science, as well as a few alumni, but the group was still pared by half through an application process. In the next year, Young hopes more students will be able to be partake in the course.

“It’s about developing the passion and giving them the experience,” Young said. “I think a lot of them at the end of it think medicine is a real possibility while others will just remember it; they’ll all look at their hands differently for the rest of their lives.”

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