Even the dead can teach a lesson

Josh Chilson

Josh Chilson

Two little-known teachers inhabit the third floor of Ag Hall 24 hours a day. Some might argue they are more interesting than many other professors on campus.

And they aren’t even alive.

Students enrolled in anatomy at SDSU must participate in human anatomy lab, where they view the dissection of a cadaver. Students that excel in anatomy, a notoriously difficult course, have a chance to become interns. Theses interns are rewarded for their hard work by being allowed to assist the instructors with the dissection of a human body.

Professor Scott Pedersen is head of the cadaver program. When he came to SDSU seven years ago, the human anatomy lab consisted of little more than a rat dissection program. He was brought in primarily to build a successful cadaver-based physiological program. Pedersen accomplished this with the help of other SDSU officials, particularly Vice President and Provost Carol Peterson, who Pedersen believes was instrumental in the development of this course.

Human anatomy lab is one of the most in-depth lab sessions on campus, and one of the only courses of its kind in the state. The University of South Dakota provides cadavers for its graduate medical students, but does not have a program for undergraduate students. Presentation College has a similar program for undergrads, but it is not of the scale of SDSU’s. According to Pedersen, SDSU’s program is “competitive at a national level.”

The program has two cadavers available, one male and one female, and at least one new body is available each semester. Every cadaver used in the state circulates from USD’s medical program. All bodies used are contributed by people who, while alive, willingly donated their bodies to science.

Cadaver donors are generally elderly people who, during life, worked in the medical profession. Pedersen said one donor viewed her contribution as “training her replacement.”

These individuals make huge contributions to the medical field with their donations. Pedersen has received numerous e-mails from past students who claim that being able to work with cadavers was extremely helpful in their future endeavors.

“The hands on experience from the lab helps with other physiology classes,” said Donni Peschon, nursing major and current intern.

Though the thought of dissecting a cadaver may fill some people with the heebie-jeebies, very few students that take the lab seem to have trouble working with the bodies.

“It is very beneficial. The cadavers really enhanced the learning experience,” said nursing student Greg Hartman.

#1.884232:4099742582.jpg:Cavader2.jpg:SDSU cadavers are on the 3rd floor in Ag Hall. Human anatomy students get a unique chance to see a dissection of a real cadaver. Due to rights and in respect of the cadavers, photos of the bodies are not permitted.:Christy Wey