Do you know how hard it is to draw a circle by hand? Let alone a 6mm circle? And then perfectly? Well…I believe it is not humanly possible to draw a PERFECT circle of ANY size, including a 6 mm circle! Now, I hear you wondering, what the heck am I talking about, and why the heck should I care?
A Little Background…
Dr. Keller’s Histology Class
My premed class at Pittsburg State University began freshman year with about 400+ premed students. By the end of 4 years, there would be 6 of us left, all applying and getting accepted into medical school. The head of the premed program was Dr. Leland Keller. He was infamous for heading a rigorous program that prepared students for acceptance into medical school…it was tough…and effective. Of those students who applied, all got accepted into medical school…that is, if you survived Dr. Keller’s courses…especially Histology.
Dr. Keller’s Histology Class was hard…REALLY HARD, but probably the best class for preparing me for my future life as a pathologist. In fact, it was usually reserved for Seniors. As it turned out, I had to take it as a junior, with all of the seniors! It ended up being a blessing in disguise.
The textbooks we used in Dr. Keller’s Histology Class were the same as those used by KUMC, and then some! We read and studied Netter’s texts, Bloom and Fawcett’s histology text, and DiFiore’s Atlas of Human Histology. Each student was also required to create a Notebook of hand-drawn drawings of what we were studying, which were graded. So, if we were studying liver, we had to draw by hand what we were viewing under the microscope. NO STIPPLING ALLOWED! Each dot was drawn in, not stippled, into place…each red blood cell and white blood cell drawn in. The intent was to help you focus on what you were seeing under the scope and visualize it…to think and see three-dimensionally. It also taught you discipline.
So, where does the 6mm circle come in?
Pop Quiz-”Draw a 6mm Circle”
Dr. Keller was known for his pop quizzes, and for histology, I think his personal favorite, was to ask us to “draw a [perfect] 6 mm circle”. And, although he may not have said “perfect”, and I interject that, based on his grading scale, I think that is what he meant! Why on earth would we pre-med students need to know how to draw a 6mm circle? Perish the thought! What he told us, was that if we could understand or be able to visualize a 6 mm circle, that represents a very basic building block in the body. It is a very useful point of reference. For example, a red blood cell measures from 6-8microns, average that out to 7microns. White blood cells…a bit large than that, say 10-12 microns. And guess what? An intermediate cell nucleus, a useful size reference in cytopathology, is about the size of a red blood cell…or there ya go…that pesky 6 mm circle again!
Was It Worth It?
So, nearly 34 years later, do I think learning how to draw a 6 mm circle was worth it? ABSOLUTELY! First of all, it stuck in my brain…I have never forgotten it and every time I use a visual reference, whether looking in the microscope, or estimating the size of a macroscopic lesion, I remember Dr. Keller, and his “draw a 6 mm circle” lesson. It was a good one…thank you Dr. Keller!
Dr. Leland Keller passed away in March of 2001. In his honor, a Leland Keller Endowment Fund was created to assist pre-medical and dental students at PSU. He was a passionate collector of medical quackery devices, and lectured frequently on this topic.
If you stumble across this blog, and you knew Dr. Keller and want to add your own personal anecdote, PLEASE DO! Or, if you have other similar anecdotes to share, I would love to hear them. Although we may loose our dear friends and mentors, let’s not loose their memory and what they taught us.