Cadaver lab offers unique learning environment

April 20, 2015
Cadaver Lab

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have the unique opportunity to work with human cadavers in the Human Gross Anatomy class. The class is taught each fall by Dr. Richard Dhyanchand, assistant professor of biology. “It is a unique class in that it allows for undergraduate dissection of human bodies,” he said.

UW-Platteville purchases the cadavers from UW-Madison with funds provided from the A. Keith Brewer Foundation at UW-Madison. Brewer, a native of Richland Center, Wis., graduated from the Platteville Normal School in 1913. He graduated from UW-Madison in 1915 where he received his master’s degree in chemistry and physics.

The foundation gifts money for projects related to cancer research. Dhyanchand noted some of the cadavers they receive have cancerous tumors.

Each cadaver costs $1,000 and Dhyanchand traditionally receives four new cadavers every other year, having six on campus at one time. “We are very thankful that we are able to do this and that we can utilize the funds from the Brewer account,” he said.

Without the funds from the Brewer Foundation, the lab probably would not be feasible, according to Dhyanchand. “This is an integral funding piece of the lab,” he said.

Dhyanchand noted that most of the students in the class are interested in biology and cancer research, but there is no guarantee they will continue that interest after graduation. “However, this gives them a great experience,” he said. “It really sets our students apart when they go to the next level and are involved with any class or program that involves human gross anatomy. For example, if they go to medical school. The students of mine who go to medical school who have taken Human Gross Anatomy here, quite frankly, have found it quite easy. They’re often tutoring their classmates at medical school.”

Many students advance to become physician assistants or physical therapists.

The Human Gross Anatomy class is quite popular. “It’s in high demand,” said Dhyanchand, noting he caps the class at 24 students. “It’s pretty intense. I treat it a lot like a grad school course.”

During the spring semester, Dhyanchand offers tours of the cadaver lab to high school groups in the region. Various campus groups also tour the lab. “It’s a big draw for students to come to UW-Platteville,” he said.

The lab utilizes two rooms in Russell Hall.

Dhyanchand explained that he and the students treat the cadavers with the utmost respect, including covering the face while they are conducting the dissections. “I’m big on making the students respect what we’re doing and understand the big world relevance of what we’re doing,” he said. “There are rules in the lab.”

When the students are finished with a cadaver, it is returned to UW-Madison where it is cremated and returned to the family in most cases.

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, 608- 342-1194,


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