My Mice, My Scalpel, and I

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

“All we have to do is use a straight razor to shave off the hair, and then use a 15-blade to cut off the epidermis,” said Carrie. She picked up a dead mouse by its tail and laid it on the table, then picked up the straight razor and started shaving off the hair. I don’t know if I should have been excited, nervous, or revolted, but it didn’t matter, this was a hell of a lot better than just cleaning the lab. “Shave the other two mice and call me when you are done. Then I’ll show ya how to skin them.” The blade was sharper than I had anticipated; the hair came off the mice effortlessly. Psh, this isn’t hard at all. “All done!” I exclaimed. I looked at the naked mice, and was satisfied with my work. “Good Job! Now comes the tricky part,” Carrie told me. I didn’t think skinning the mice would be too hard; surgery looked pretty easy in House and Nip/Tuck. Well, I learned the hard way that television shows were not synonymous with real life. “Should I show you how to skin one real quick?” Carrie asked me. Since I did such a good job of shaving the mice I was feeling pretty confident in myself, so I just replied, “Nah, I’ll figure it out.” I took the scalpel and angled it so the blade lined up with the skin, and began to cut. My initial incision was reasonably smooth, and I was a doing a decent job until, squish, I cut in too deep. After my accidental laceration, a string of inappropriate four-lettered words ensued. “Oh, ****!” I yelled. Blood and intestines started to spew out of the mouse corpse.“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Carrie asked me. “Yeah, I’m fine, but the mouse isn’t.” Well actually the mouse was dead so it already wasn’t fine, but making a mess of its innards probably didn’t help the situation. “It’s okay, just throw that one away. Let me show you how to do it this time, all right?” said Carrie. “Yeah, sorry. I should have listened to you,” I apologized. “Don’t worry about it. Trying things out for yourself is how you learn.” she replied. Carrie, a first-year medical student, was my supervisor at Dr. Ericson’s lab at the University of Minnesota. I learned a lot from her; anything from basic lab procedures to learning how to make chemical solutions, and of course, skinning mice. I realized that becoming a doctor was not quite how television shows portrayed it, and that doing surgical procedures were much more difficult than it appeared. If I really wanted to go into the medical field it would take serious dedication and practice. The most valuable piece of advice Carrie gave me was to explore my options by taking a variety of courses during my undergraduate education. While I am considering pursuing the pre-med track during college, I still plan to take Carrie’s advice and hope to explore many branches of learning throughout my undergraduate studies.

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