University of Southern California
Artist & Gallery

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J.C. Boileau Grant, M.D.

The students had the rare privilege of having Dr. Grant, who wrote their textbooks on anatomy, lecture to them in the lab. He had come from Canada in the fall and winter quarters as a visiting professor, and at the age of eighty-three gave the young people a sense of continuity, a from generation to generation feeling. He published his first anatomy textbook in 1943, and the students were using the 1962 fifth edition of his Atlas, Dissector, and Method books. He was one of the few M.D.'s with whom the students had contact in the first year; so many of their teachers were Ph.D.'s in anatomy or physiology. When he spoke to them, he tried to teach them some important concept; and so when they left his lecture they came away with an idea that they had not understood in that hour, not just notes to be studied later. He would help them picture in their minds relationships in the simplest form: "Consider the unmatched organs in the abdomen like leaves in a book." Too often the young instructors emphasized details, including their own minute research, or they repeated the textbook. In his lectures, Dr. Grant used his age well: he would ask the students to "help him" recollect some detail! In an era which worships youth, it was pleasant to witness wisdom respected.

Here is a drypoint of him and his assistant professor dissecting out a duodenal hernia in one of the student's cadavers. Although his hands were arthritic, he dissected with blunt tweezers in birdlike movements. He admired how we prepared specimens here and tried to preserve as much as he could while here. In this case he was looking for new specimens for his anatomical museum in Canada. When he reached the insertion of the structure and realized that it was not unusual enough for his collection, he gave the cadaver back to the student, who stood impatiently behind Dr. Grant. He was anxious to complete his work and go home.

Dr. Grant had respect for anyone at any level who wanted to learn and he would stay in the lab until the last student finished. When there were no students around, he tried to teach the young woman who worked for him in the embedding lab...only she argued with him!

-May Lesser

Excerpt & image from: Lesser, May H. The Art of Learning Medicine. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts; 1974. p. 6-7.

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