CNU dives into cadavers

Human anatomy lab at CNU promotes hands-on learning through the use of cadavers

Operating on a cadaver is a significant experience when one is preparing to become a surgeon; however, most students who are training for this profession do not get this encounter until they go to graduate school. Here at CNU, students going into medicine have the ability to familiarize themselves and conduct projects with a human cadaver, which is a unique experience not many undergraduates are able to do. 

The cadaver lab is run by Dr. Keith Lustig, who started at CNU in 2017. He played a significant role in the development of the lab and got the program certified by the Virginia State Anatomical Program, which required rigorous inspection of the lab and what the cadaver would be used for. 

Of the 82 four-year colleges and universities in Virginia, CNU is among the 10 percent with cadavers that have been donated for scientific purposes. This already makes CNU stand out, but there is another aspect that makes the class even more special. Lustig shows students that the body has to be treated with the utmost respect in order to keep the donor’s dignity. Lustig says that their “efforts to honor our donor include not only the study of human anatomy but go beyond this. [They] attempt to inspire future medical professionals to enter the next phase of their higher education with a special perspective of their patients — one that recognizes the harmony they will be responsible to help balance between their patient’s bodies and spirits.” 

One way in which the cadaver’s dignity is preserved is by avoiding the revelation of the body’s name and the use of nicknames. Apart from this, Lustig tells students to treat the cadaver as the students’ first patient and are advised on the importance of addressing all needs of their patient, such as proper physical and emotional care. 

Another aspect of this course is Lustig’s attempt to ground students to their own humanity by inviting them to bring personal items they find meaningful. This reminds them of their collective humanity and prepares them for the work ahead.

Lustig believes “we all need to be grounded in many ways, but this is especially important when you are responsible for the care of others.”

Students also get to decide the projects they work on in the lab, as long as it connects with anatomy. Students have worked on the measurement of facial symmetry, bone elasticity, hand dexterity and other endeavors. Lustig says that one recurring theme in every group has been “relating human anatomy to nature.”

Lustig believes that the human anatomy lab is essential because of the increasing distance developing between people in our culture. “I have seen the effects of decreased connectivity in medicine. I believe the lab experience is unique in its ability to enhance not only one’s academic volume of information but also to reveal and thus allow for comparison of the importance of connections in anatomy, medical care and life.”

~Cesar Gonzalez Engelhard, Staff Writer~

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