UT anatomy program allows local high school students to dissect bodies

August 1, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Josh Martin

The surreality of the situation didn’t strike Abby Nowakowski until she realized that her hands weren’t in a preserved fetal pig or cat — but a human cadaver.

“The experience was amazing and brought everything I know about anatomy together for me,” she said. “We just dissect various animals and their body parts in high school, but never a whole human body.”

Sydney Edinger, a student from Notre Dame Academy, examined the liver.

Sydney Edinger, a student from Notre Dame Academy, examined the liver.

The 17-year-old senior from Notre Dame Academy conducted her first dissection of a human body as part of the UT Advanced Anatomy Institute for High School Students earlier this spring.

The UT Department of Neurosciences program gave 40 area high school students the opportunity to dissect eight human bodies in May. Represented schools included Springfield High School, Whitmer High School, St. Ursula Academy, Notre Dame Academy and Clay High School.

Eight to 10 students from each school divided into five groups of eight that included students from different schools in order to promote collaboration and allow them to meet new people.

The anatomy teachers from each high school assisted the students as needed. Each of the teachers participated in an intensive program last summer to study and dissect the human cadaver. This prepared them to bring their own students to learn in the UT Anatomy Labs.

Dr. Mark Hankin, UT professor of anatomy in the Department of Neurosciences and co-coordinator of the program, said it also provided them with an opportunity to gain a new and valuable perspective on the subject, as most of them have never dissected a human body before. To date, a total of 18 teachers have participated in the program.

Each day began with a short review of the particular region of the body to be investigated. The students then spent the remainder of the day in the lab dissecting that region of the body.

Hankin regarded the event as a “spectacular success.”

“The impact of the program on the students, both at the outset and as the week went on, was incredible,” he said.

Students and faculty from the UT Advanced Anatomy Institute posed for a photo.

Students and faculty from the UT Advanced Anatomy Institute posed for a photo.

All of the student participants displayed an interest in and proficiency with anatomical and physiological studies and many said they wanted to pursue careers as doctors and other health-care providers, Hankin said.

Each high school used its own criteria to choose which students could participate.

The institute increases the general health literacy of high school students and connects those interested in medical careers to programs in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, Hankin said.

“I have attended a multitude of conferences, workshops, seminars and symposia in my 22 years of teaching, but nothing more directly related to what I do in my classroom as an anatomy teacher than this institute,” said Bernadette Terry, a Whitmer High School anatomy teacher.

“The Toledo area educational community is fortunate to have such a valuable asset as the UT Health Science Campus and wonderful faculty who are willing to reach out to improve education,” added Chris Chapman, a science teacher at Notre Dame Academy.

Teachers with Toledo Public School also have begun the training process with one-third of the science teachers trained so far, and discussions are under way to expose more TPS students to the program.

“We look forward to participating in the UT Advanced Anatomy Institute for High School Students,” TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko said. “This program provides great educational benefits for our teachers and students, many of whom would be considering careers in the field of health care.”

Maurice Rotundo, a retired Ottawa Hills high school teacher and the other coordinator of the institute, started his own anatomy dissection program with UT almost 20 years ago. He and Hankin collaborated to expand the program to provide these opportunities for other high school teachers and their students.

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