28. Still memorize human names and numbers?
I hated History classes when I was in high school. I hated memorizing names and numbers. Who did what in what year¡¦and so on. Memorizing who did what was manageable, but the names and numbers were impossible to memorize. I hated History so much that I even hated the historical dramas on TV.
When I was a med student, I had trouble with names and numbers again. There were many people¡¯s names in the diagnosis and therapy. For example, Hirschsprung¡¯s disease was named after Hirschsprung who discovered the disease. ¡°I can¡¯t even remember the names of the people I meet every day, how am I supposed to memorize the name of the person I have never seen before? I respect him but I don¡¯t like him.¡±
In med school, there were so many numbers to memorize as well. How many grams of medications to take for how many days, and percentages of 5 year survival¡¦ and so on. ¡°Memorizing all the numbers is very difficult, and forgetting all the numbers right after the exam makes me even more depressing. It would be never too late to memorize the numbers after I become a doctor.¡±
There was one thing I realized after I became an anatomy professor after graduating from med school. Names and numbers are convenient to ask on exams, and it is easy to grade them as well. For example, there are many possible answers to the question, ¡°Write about red blood cells.¡± There is only one possible answer to the question, ¡°Write the diameter of red blood cells.¡± Especially, names and numbers were convenient for multiple choice questions. When I became an anatomy professor, I was full of justice, and I promised to myself this. ¡°I will not make my students unpleasant to make myself convenient.¡±
Fortunately, there are no names of people in anatomical terms. Eustachian tube is named after Eustachio, but it is an auditory tube or pharyngotympanic tube in anatomical terms. When you see an old friend, you might forget his name, but you never forget his nickname. This is because the nickname comprises of his characteristic features. Like so, anatomical terms are composed of characteristic features of structures and they are easy to memorize.
A bad anatomy instructor can teach numerous numbers at his will. The size and weight of different organs, length, width, and thickness of various muscles and many more. I don¡¯t teach these numbers. I ensure my students that I will not ask numbers in an anatomy text.
But, sometimes I do talk about numbers. ¡°Entire surface area of alveoli in both lungs is 150 square meters. Many people live in houses smaller than their own alveoli¡¯s surface area. The length of the entire vascular system including capillary vessels is 120,000km. One man¡¯s blood vessel can go around the Earth three times.¡± What students need to know from these numbers is the fact that there are a lot of alveoli and vessels in a man¡¯s body. They don¡¯t have to memorize the numbers.
But, there are numbers that must be memorized. For example, the ¡°number of permanent teeth is 32.¡± The number 32 is important and can be asked on exams. But the numbers that are important are easy to memorize and are not too much of a burden to the students.
In many subjects, including anatomy, students and instructors think differently. The instructor considers the subject as requiring understanding, while the student considers the subject as requiring memorization. Whether who is right depends on the teacher who teaches the subject. Thus, if the instructor wants the students to understand the subject, the instructor must not simply tell the students to memorize. I say to my History teachers and med school professors, ¡°Did you read about this? Do you still ask your students to memorize names and numbers?¡±