Beneath the Skin; Biomed Gets up Close and Personal with Cadavers

November 20, 2013

The Zoetics

Photo by The Catalyst Biomed students hang out on UNM campus after their visit to the cadaver labs.

Photo by The Catalyst
Biomed students hang out on UNM campus after their visit to the cadaver labs.

By Ryley Thompson

28 scholars from The ASK Academy walked into a room full of bodies last Thursday  at the Gross Anatomy Lab in UNM’s Health Sciences Center .

Scholars gathered around a table with a 100-year-old male cadaver atop it. The cadaver was already dissected into the appropriate pieces; his body put back together like a puzzle. Tom Estenson, PhD, and head of the anatomical donations at UNM, asked a scholar to pull back the skin that had been cut across the chest and down either side to just above the hip.  The rib cage lay under the skin, and it was easily picked up and set aside by another scholar volunteer.

Biomedical scholars who are enrolled or have completed Anatomy and Physiology were taken to the cadaver labs by Project Managers Karen Pierce and David Osmond as part of an opportunity to learn more about the human body through a hands-on, up-close experience.

“We wanted to give our biomed scholars an experience that would mimic something that they are going to get to do in a medical school, or physical therapy school, or nursing school,” Pierce said.

Sophomore Arianna Stagg said she was hesitant before the trip, but went at the advice of her mother.  “ I have this fear of dead people, I always picture the body breathing, even though it’s not,” she said.

She admitted to feeling a bit light-headed when she entered the room and at times felt on the verge of crying, “I thought, ‘this is what’s inside of me?’”

After being in a room full of human body parts for over an hour, she said she eventually put her fears aside. “I was terrified, but when I got in there, it got real. I got over a little bit of my fear of dead people. I was hoping they would have shown a child, teenager, and then an adult in different stages.”

Sophomore Alex Leonhardt said the experience was easier than he expected.  “I was nervous at first about what I would see, but when Dr. E showed the body it wasn’t as bad. I expected it to be more intense and more sensitive; I thought they were going to cut open the cadaver in front of us.”

The cadavers were already dissected, and Dr. E  pulled the still-attached organs out of the body cavity for scholars, who were gathered around the body, to see and hold.

Sophomore Orion Sanchez said he was surprised by what he saw. ”I looked the whole time for a cardiac notch and I couldn’t find one. I thought that the organs would vary in color, but they don’t – they all look the same. I expected the cadaver to be a 35 or 40-year-old body, not 100 years old.”

Sanchez said he found it more difficult to dissect the cats in class. “I think that the cats were harder because their faces were exposed.”

After scholars finished with the dissection of the body, they moved to a long table with buckets filled with human organs. Scholars got to see various organs in different stages of health. Some organs were riddled with diseases or disorders including cancer, smoker’s lungs, dementia of the brain, an enlarged spleen and cirrhosis of the liver.

Junior Samantha Woodley said the trip was more difficult for her than she thought it would be.  “It was emotional, you’re in a room full of dead bodies and the realization that we are all going to die someday hits you.”

She said part of what made the trip difficult was that her grandmother donated her body to science as a cadaver. Despite the emotional toll it took on her, she said the trip taught her a lot and she respects people who donate their bodies.

“We all die at some point, so if we can donate our bodies to figure out medical things or help medical students in the field, I’m all for it,” she said. “It makes anatomy a lot more interesting.”

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One Comment on “Beneath the Skin; Biomed Gets up Close and Personal with Cadavers”

  1. askmrstephenson Says:

    Excellent job by all.

    Mr S


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