May 28, 2021, by School of Medicine

50 at 50: Tamra’s Notes

Tamra Nathan smiling at the cameraStarting Medical School I was nervous about the concept of full body dissection. I had shown preference for it across the board in my application, but without any real understanding of what it would mean to me to be in a room full of cadavers. 

In year one I struggled with the sheer volume of work and attention to detail that Anatomy demanded. When in the dissection room I would focus on trying to hold my nerve when grilled by professors and absorb what I could from the practical element. I found the concentration required for the sessions exhausting and wasn’t sure how to fit the content into everything else the year asked of us. I was working hard but not smart, and as a result struggled through the first set of exams. I had an extenuating circumstances for personal reasons, and failed the Biomedical (Anatomy) OSCE by 1% at the end of the year. As a result I went to live with my grandparents in Malaysia for the Summer. 

Diagrams of the kidneys from Tamra's NotesThere I was forced to immerse myself in Anatomy. I had two and a half months to crack the subject before the resit. I thoroughly enjoy Art in my spare time and was a huge fan of Geography at school. To me, Anatomy is now a combination of the two. The Geography of the body I could learn in an artistic way. That Summer I decided to remake my notes, leaving nothing of importance out, whilst hand illustrating every diagram to add some fun in. I resat the exam and it became my highest exam mark to date. This made me realise – it wasn’t Anatomy I found impossible, it was the way in which I had been learning it.  

In year two I opted for the Anatomy optional module and found working on my own prosection extremely enjoyable. Therefore, for my BMedSci project in year three I elected to do an Anatomy project. As part of this project I decided to teach all 250 of the year below for one Anatomy session, giving them an alternative booklet which utilised the diagrams and notes I had created in that first year summer. 

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I discovered a number of students, who like me, had be working hard but not smart. Here in lies the inspiration for my book ‘Tamra’s Notes – an undergraduate’s guide to Human Anatomy’. I reformatted and edited the notes I had created, found a print company to personally work with, and set up an account with my local post office that meant I could leave the books with them to post when they had the time.  

The book launched 27 December 2020 and to date I have sold over 200 copies. When I failed that exam in first year I remember my Mum saying ‘this will be the best thing that has ever happened to you’. I was so angry at the time, but now I have to say I agree with her. 

By Tamra Nathan, Medical student

Posted in 50 Years of MedicineMedicine