Too Pudgy? Clinic Medical Students Not Learning How to Operate on You


If you are packing extra pounds, you may have more to ponder than your increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Today’s doctors-in-training might have no idea of how to operate on you should you need surgery.

You also may want to squelch any do-good desire to donate your body to science. Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine turned down a 350-pound cadaver because it was too obese to be useful in anatomy classes.

“Someone that’s shorter and carrying a lot of weight, that is a problem,” Richard Drake, director of anatomy and surgery professor told MSNBC. “The storage is one issue, but when you are obese, there’s a lot of tissue everywhere. The students don’t get as good a learning opportunity.”

And it’s not just Cleveland Clinic. Many medical schools around the country will not take too-fat bodies, despite the fact that more than a third of U.S. adults are obese and that number is growing every day. Why not have medical students practice on cadavers sized similarly to those they are likely to see in the operating room?

Experts told MSNBC that bodies taller than 6-foot-4 or heavier than 300 pounds generally won’t fit on the trays meant to store them. Also, the embalming process can add 100 to 150 pounds to the person’s natural weight.

So when exactly, will new doctors learn how to deal with a third of the population?

That can come later, said Ronn Wade, director of anatomical services at one of he largest body donation programs in the country at the University of Maryland Medical School.

Unfortunately, “later” seems to mean when a fat person is in the operating room needing surgery.

Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.