Chapter 03: In Medical School

Title

Chapter 03: In Medical School

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Description

The next chapter begins as the Interviewer recaps Dr. Bruner's educational track, providing institution names and dates. Dr. Bruner then explains the professional and personal reasons why she left Toledo for a medical school in Ann Arbor, then returned to study at the Medical College of Ohio. She covers her experiences in a unique, year-long student clerkship at the latter institution, and offers a moving anecdote about performing an autopsy on an elderly man who had been stabbed seventy times, an experience (among many) that convinced her she did not want to enter forensic pathology, as she first thought she might.

Identifier

BrunerJM_01_20120604_C03

Publication Date

6-4-2012

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Educational Path; Personal Background; Professional Path; Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Overview; Definitions, Explanations, Translations

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Just for the record I wanted to pick up or to note that you did your BS in Pharmacy at the University of Toledo in Ohio—Toledo, Ohio—and you were awarded that degree in ’72, and then you got your Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences also at the University of Toledo in 1974. I just noticed in my notes. It said you were the first student in this new program.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

(laughing) Right!

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You were the only student in that program?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Well, it was a small—the pharmacy is a small school. I think we had about thirty-five people in my class, and they had just started this master’s degree program, and at the time I wasn’t 100 percent sure what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go from there. So I signed up for the master’s program, and I was the first person to receive this Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Toledo.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s neat.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

And then partway through that is when I decided to go to medical school, and I actually went to the University of Michigan for a year, which is only fifty miles away.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

It’s in a different state, but it’s very close. I went there because it was a big school that was away from home. I had lived at home during my college years and then got married, and I enjoyed my time at Michigan, but it was difficult, personally difficult, because my husband had owned a business in Toledo. We moved to Ann Arbor, which is where Michigan is. It’s fifty miles away. I was in medical school, which was fine, but he was having to drive fifty miles each way, and it’s not like Houston. We don’t drive that much in Ohio. So it was just really difficult for him to drive that way, and also we have to deal with the winter. We had a bad winter with a lot of snow and that year he ended up—one time driving home from work he had to leave his car on the freeway. He couldn’t go any further.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. The commuting can be brutal with the weather.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Yeah, it was.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And just for the record, what is your husband’s name?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

His name is Charles. Charles Bruner. So we decided—the reason I didn’t stay in Toledo to go to medical school was at that time the medical school was also fairly new in Toledo. I thought it would be better not to try that school, and then the further I got away from it, I realized that it’s fine. Where you go to school doesn’t mean as much as how you study and what you learn, so I transferred back then to the Medical College of Ohio, which is in Toledo, and finished up there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And you received your MD in ’79?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

But—and it was year two—that first year you had gotten back and were attending at the Medical College of Ohio—that you made your discovery about pathology?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

It was. It was. And in addition to that they had an option there, which really helped me a lot. They had an option of what they called a student clerkship in pathology. So you could interrupt your medical school education for a year after the second year and go for a year—spend a year in the Department of Pathology and work right alongside the first-year residents and essentially find out what it’s really about. I think it was a good thing to do that—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Why did they do that? That seems like a very enlightened program.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

They did it. I think what they did—I think it’s sort of a recruiting tool because if you think about it people who go to medical school—everybody knows what a pediatrician does. Everybody knows what a surgeon does. Everybody knows what an internist does because you see them, but no one knows what a pathologist does. So it’s like, “Oh, I think I like pathology, but what do they do?” It really gave me a chance to find out what pathologists do every day and whether I thought I would like to do that and at the time—that was during the Quincy era. Remember Quincy, the medical examiner?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

So I really thought that I wanted to go into forensic pathology because I knew that program and I—the people who got me interested in pathology—the professors there happened to also be forensic pathologists. I thought, well, it’s really interesting. You do autopsies. You do these medical examiner cases, you find out why the person died, and you’re the hero! So I thought, “Oh, wow! I really want to do that!” I did this clerkship in pathology for a year and worked right alongside the first-year residents, and we did a lot of autopsies at that time. Autopsies then were a lot—seemed to be a lot more popular than they are today so we did that year—I don’t know—300 or so total. There were about three or four of us doing autopsies and we were doing—at the hospital—we were doing the medical examiner cases. It’s just the way they had it set up. They didn’t have a separate—it’s a small city, so they did not have a city morgue. They just sent them to the medical school, and the residents would do the autopsies. While I continued to enjoy that part of it, I realized that there were a couple of parts of forensic pathology that I really didn’t enjoy. One of them was I realized that you would have to go to court and testify, which I did not think I was going to enjoy. The other one was that you had to detail every tiny little facet of every autopsy which was fine until I had a case—and it was so sad! I had a case of an elderly gentleman that was killed by stabbing. So somebody had stabbed this person, and I had to document, measure, and photograph every stab wound. The person had been stabbed seventy times, and I thought, “How many times do you need to stab somebody to kill them?” It was just an example of man’s inhumanity to man, and I thought, “I don’t know how many times I can stand this.” So that kind of turned me off of forensic pathology, and the other thing was that you get the drug overdose suicide cases, so you get the body in, you do the autopsy, and the body is perfectly normal. I was very disappointed because you don’t have the answer. You have to wait for the toxicology to come back, and that may take a few weeks. So I thought, “I did this whole autopsy. I spent all my time and all my effort, and I’ve got a normal dead body here.” It was sort of frustrating. That was sort of frustrating.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I can see the detective in you.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You wanted some of the mystery there.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

I want something. Yeah, I want to get something here. So I enjoyed that year—and I also did— during that year, I also got a chance to do some surgical pathology, and I could see what the pathologists were doing every day.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What does that mean—“surgical pathology”?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Surgical pathology is this diagnostic pathology that we talked about, only it’s more broad. Surgical pathology means you do the diagnosis in every type of specimen, not limited only to brains. So right now I have subspecialized into brain and even further subspecialized into brain tumors, but when you start out in surgical pathology, you have to learn everything first so you can decide where to narrow your efforts. The surgical pathology is sort of where every pathologist starts who is going to do the anatomic part of pathology, not the clinical lab part. So it was a good experience, and it did convince me that I was in the right place. I went back and finished up medical school knowing that I had made the right choice.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And then you did your residency also at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

The Medical College of Ohio-Toledo.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Yeah.

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Chapter 03: In Medical School

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