29. Memorize, memorize, memorize


If you know about the phonebook, you are of the old generation. In the 1980s, there were phonebooks everywhere. A colleague of mine at that time asked, "How long would it take to memorize a page of this phonebook? How would you memorize it?" As med students endlessly memorize medical terms, they begin to consider themselves as memorizing machines. "We are like computers having to save and delete files repeatedly." Please think about whether you can handle this or not, before you apply to a med school.

Anatomy requires a lot of memorization. There are over a thousand anatomical terms that must be memorized. Having to memorize the terms in English makes the task even harder. The first reason why terms are learned in English is because medical texts and journals are in English. The second reason is because medical clinicians use English terms to communicate and write down medical records in English. If you memorize the terms in English first, memorizing them in Korean is easy.




Another difficulty is that we memorize technical terms. For example, the bone at the knee is memorized as patella, not kneecap. This is difficult even for a student who spent time in the U.S. To make things worse, names of muscles are memorized in Latin. For instance, muscles in the upper arm are called biceps brachii. In the same way, we use the term Homo sapiens instead of human in Biology.




There are too many terms to memorize to spend time looking for phonetic alphabets. Many students don't care whether their pronunciations are correct or not. For example, many students have difficulty saying gall bladder properly. Memorizing the spelling is top priority but pronunciation is not. If you mispronounce a term you are embarrassed, but if you misspell a term you lose grades.

Actually touching the structures in an anatomy lab makes memorization of terms much easier. It is similar to a baby memorizing words as he touches his face. Chatting with your colleagues using anatomical terms makes memorizing terms even easier. This is similar to a baby learning words as he chats with his mother. Anatomical terms are said to be memorized using hands and mouth, like babies.




Students find tricks to memorize terms. In the movies, there are lots of criminals in LA and lots of victims who cry. Combine LA with criminal to form LAcrimal which is an adjective form of tears. If you find mnemonics like this, you should let your colleagues or juniors know about it. There may be an anatomy instructor who might teach and give out cartoons full of easy mnemonics to his students for free. That considerate instructor is me.

Anatomy is all about memorization. But it is not just simple memorization; learning anatomy requires comprehension as well. In this way, anatomy is similar to multiplication table. Both of them need early education, require memorization, need understanding, and must know how to apply them properly. Memorizing a phonebook out of nothing is a bad way of studying, but memorizing terms with the understanding of human body is a good way of studying.