Cadavers provide hands-on learning for students

April 29, 2003

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Left to Right: Clark Benson, Alana Berczy Photo by Andy McNeill, UWP Public Relations

PLATTEVILLE-It's a case where the dead teach the living. University of Wisconsin-Platteville biology majors and pre-professional students are learning more about the human body than textbooks or models could possibly provide. Four cadavers, two of each gender, are providing practical experience in Russell Hall.

Eight UWP students are doing independent study dissecting the cadavers this semester under the tutelage of biology department chair Wayne Weber and Amanda Trewin, assistant professor of biology.

"This is a unique opportunity that will help students work in greater depth," said Trewin, who teaches anatomy and physiology and comparative anatomy. "It's unusual for a school of this size."

Trewin, who earned her Ph.D. at UW-Milwaukee, did her undergraduate work at UWP. Cadavers would have facilitated learning, had they been available, said Trewin. "They provide hands-on, real world experience."

Weber and Trewin, who worked with College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture dean Duane Ford and agriculture professor Michael Mee to bring a cadaver laboratory to UWP, are pleased with the three-dimensional experience their students are receiving.

A proposal for a laboratory modernization project, approved last spring, included funding for storage tanks, the cadavers and preparation fees, storage and delivery.

The cadavers are kept immersed in tanks of alcohol when not in use. A white cloth covers parts that are not being dissected, and the face is kept covered, out of respect, said Weber. "This is an absolutely remarkable learning experience for them."

This fall, a four-credit human gross anatomy class will be offered. There are eight students enrolled to date, said Weber.

Learning aside, have there been emotional or personal obstacles for students to overcome? Not really.

Students worked intently and asked questions as they worked in teams on a recent spring afternoon.

Junior Rachel Schmitt from Beaver Dam said her first encounter with a cadaver made her "excited and nervous." But after a few strokes with the scalpel, Schmitt calmed down. "When we got into it, all my apprehensions dissolved."

Clark Benson, a junior from Belmont, plied his scalpel as he dissected leg muscles. Working on a cadaver is far superior to using a model, said Benson, who will attend Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, this summer.

Biology major April Laufenberg from Mount Hope, who dissected the male reproductive system, agreed.

There is a world of difference between looking at a picture in a book and working on a cadaver, said Laufenberg. Dissecting a human body is not a problem, she said. "There is no blood."

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