Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1996, B.S., 1996, M.A., 1998; Brown Medical School, M.A., 2006, M.D., 2006; Brown University, residency in psychiatry. Hobbies and other interests: Writing/literature, travel, cooking, football fan.
Physician, writer, and poet.
Brown Summer Fellow in the Arts and Humanities in Medicine, 2002; Leah J. Dickstein Commended Scholar, Brown Medical School, 2004; Mortar Board National Honor Society; Gamma Sigma Alpha Honor Society.
Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab (memoir), Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Brown Medicine, New Physician, Witness Literary Journal, Literary Journal, Calyx Literary Journal, and Alligator Juniper Literary Journal.
Christine Montross attended medical school and graduated with her M.D. in 2006. However, Montross also has had a longtime interest in literature and poetry, and she holds a master's degree in writing. In her first book, Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, the author provides a memoir of her medical school experience and builds the narrative around the dissection of a human cadaver that took place in one of her courses over an entire semester.
"Immediately after I began the process of dissecting a human body in anatomy lab, I knew that the experience was one which would be rich to explore in written form," the author states on the Brown University Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Web site. "My fascination with the body reemerged, and it was accompanied by the manifold emotions and discoveries of a process which was simultaneously difficult, intimate, destructive, instructive, revelatory and wild." The author also recounts on the Web site how she would go home after the class and immediately start writing journal-style notes about the experience. Her goal was not only to answer questions about what the experience of dissecting a corpse is like, but also to investigate "how we as medical students are transformed."
The memoir introduces readers to the cadaver named Eve, as well as to the author's fellow medical students who cut Eve open. "When Montross and her three lab partners meet their cadaver—a woman—her hands, head and feet are covered in cloth and tied in plastic, to ‘depersonalize the body,’" noted Rachel Hartigan Shea in the San Diego Union-Tribune. "And yet they feel compelled to name her Eve, for her lack of a belly button." Readers get a firsthand written account of the dissecting of Eve in great detail. In addition to describing how difficult it is to dissect a human cadaver, the author also delves into the thoughts and feelings of the medical students as they must deal not only with the physical but the psychological difficulties associated with dissecting what was once a living being just like them. In the author's case, she finds herself having nightmares about skinning people.
In a review of Body of Work in the New York Times, Abigail Zuger commented that the author "has tethered an earnest and readable reflection on the process of becoming a doctor to the methodical dissection of a human cadaver, the first of all too many professional initiation rites." Writing that the book "is not for the squeamish," a Publishers Weekly contributor went on in the same review to note the author's "thoughtful meditations on balancing clinical detachment and emotional engagement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Montross, Christine, Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Books, June 30, 2007, Rafael Campo, "Internal Medicine: A Poet and Doctor-in-Training Reflects Deeply on the Cadaver She Has Dissected," review of Body of Work, p. 10.
Entertainment Weekly, June 22, 2007, Simon Vozick-Levinson, review of Body of Work, p. 73.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007, review of Body of Work.
New York Times, July 31, 2007, Abigail Zuger, "A Beginning Doctor Dissects Her Way toward Understanding," review of Body of Work.
Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2007, review of Body of Work, p. 49.
San Diego Union-Tribune, August 19, 2007, Rachel Hartigan Shea, "The First Cut Is the Deepest," review of Body of Work.
Science News, July 28, 2007, review of Body of Work, p. 63.
Brown University,http://bms.brown.edu/ (January 8, 2008), faculty profile of author.
Brown University Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology,http://www.brown.edu/Departments/EEB/ (January 8, 2008), brief statement by author about Body of Work.