6/7/2014 4:02:00 PM Bloomington-area students learning cadaver lab
By PAUL SWIECH The (Bloomington) Pantagraph
LEROY, Ill. (AP) — Wearing lab coats, safety glasses and gloves and using dissection kits, Alex Huber and Kaitlyn Baughman — with assistance from colleagues — exposed muscle in the forearm of a cadaver of a woman who died of colon cancer.
At another table, Kyle Norman, Alison Brettnacher and Drew Norris worked with others to examine muscles and tendons in the hand of a cadaver of a man who died of a stroke.
At a third table, Dr. Larry Nord, a Bloomington orthopedic surgeon, performed rotator cuff dissection on a cadaver of a man who died of a heart attack. Eleven people in lab coats looked on intently and asked questions.
The room had a faint odor of Formalin, a preservative used to maintain cadavers and prevent mold. Walls were covered with human anatomical charts.
During the Human Anatomy Cadaver Dissection Lab on May 7, 33 students gathered around the three cadavers while answering questions posed by Nord; Dr. Tom Pliura, an emergency physician and lawyer; Dr. Dan Gibson, an Advocate BroMenn Medical Center second-year family practice resident; Dr. Greg Guard, an OSF St. Joseph Medical Center emergency physician; and Dr. Jonathan Foss, a radiologist with Bloomington Radiology.
But the 33 weren’t medical students. They’re advanced-level high school biology students participating in what McLean County Medical Society organizers believe is the only cadaver dissection lab in the country for high school students.
“I think this opportunity is unique,” said Gibson, who oversees each lab session and previously taught a cadaver lab at Michigan State University.
“Whenever you have an opportunity to expose kids to something new, you have to jump on it,” said Mike Troll, among McLean County high school science teachers involved in the lab. Teachers at the May 7 session were Troll from University High School in Normal, Lisa Tomlin of Normal Community West and Jim Zeleznik of LeRoy.
“I’ve never heard of this before,” Troll said of the lab. “The students have taken ownership of their learning.”
Dissections weren’t being performed in a medical center but in a refinished, formerly empty back room of Pliura’s law office.
The lab is sponsored by the county medical society, led by its secretary, Pliura, and its president, Nord. With a U.S. physician shortage predicted by 2020, the society wants to inspire the next generation of doctors, nurses and physician assistants.
But Pliura and Nord wanted to provide that inspiration with something beyond traditional job-shadowing.
“Everything starts with anatomy,” Nord said. But why a cadaver dissection lab?
“It’s hands-on,” Nord said.
Pliura got the support of several McLean County physicians to assist with lab sessions and Gary Tipsword, LeRoy schools superintendent.
Tipsword contacted other McLean County schools to find out whether they had students in advanced biology and anatomy classes who would be interested and had the maturity to participate. There is no charge but the lab offers no credit.
But is this appropriate for high school students?
“I think it’s appropriate if you have the right students doing it, and we do,” Gibson said. “You need to have a real appreciation for human life and anatomy.
“Remember,” Gibson said, nodding to the cadavers, “these people have donated their bodies to science. This lab may help students decide whether or not they’re interested in pursuing medicine.”
Tipsword said no schools thought it was a bad idea but some said their students couldn’t participate because of spring sports. Students needed to commit to two-hour lab sessions — beginning April 10 and continuing until the end of the school year — each Wednesday night and Saturday.
Students participating are from LeRoy, Tri-Valley, U High, Normal West, Normal Community, Bloomington, Central Catholic and Cornerstone Christian.
Dozens of students were interested, qualified and available. But Pliura limited the class to 33 students because any more than 11 students per cadaver wouldn’t have worked. Ten other students have been allowed to observe.
The medical society acquired the cadavers from the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois and followed proper protocols, Pliura said.
State law allows physicians licensed in Illinois and medical facilities to have cadavers provided they are being used for education and provided the bodies were received appropriately, said Susan Hofer of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The medical society also purchased an online dissection tutorial from a medical center as well as the lab coats, glasses, gloves and dissection kits. The society has spent about $11,000 so far, Pliura said.
Each lab session involves dissection of different parts of the body. The May 7 session involved the forearm and hand. Previous sessions involved the chest, upper arm, front of the leg, foot and knee. Future sessions will involve the abdomen, head and neck, back of the legs and buttocks.
Prior to each session, students are required to study the part of the body that will be dissected, which includes watching the online dissection tutorial.
While each body part may be dissected only once, after each session, body parts are returned to their proper position and skin is placed back over the parts for future study and to respect the cadaver.
“We’re not violating the body,” Nord said. “We’re dissecting it so the students can learn how to fix it and, when we’re finished, we close it up.”
“The real wonderful thing that I see is students from various schools working together,” Tomlin said.
“They have grown faster and learned more by discovering things themselves than with someone else controlling the experience,” Tomlin said. “So, in the classroom next year, I will give my students more opportunities.”
“It’s mid-May, it’s a busy time of year, these students don’t have to be here, and yet look at what they’re doing twice a week,” Zeleznik said. “That speaks volumes to the character of these students.”
Pliura hopes to offer another series of lab sessions in the fall. Each cadaver may be used for two years before its returned to the anatomical gift association or presented to a funeral director for cremation.