GCU’s atlas program gives med students anatomical experience
PHOENIX — It might sound like a gruesome joke, but a Phoenix-area college’s cadaver lab is leading the way to a new anatomical atlas.
Grand Canyon University’s cadaver atlas project – done entirely by students – includes a variety of tasks ranging from dissection, photography and anatomical art to histology, pathology and clinical skills development.
It’s not easy for students to see a body for the first time. This cadaver work helps prepare them for medical and post-graduate studies.
“My first day, I actually had to … walk outside and prepare myself,” said biology student Suzanne Curry, “’cause we were working on a new body.”
Curiosity quickly took over, though.
“You really do wonder … how they lived their life, and what they knew they had,” Curry said. “And now, you’re getting the experience of seeing it.”
The GCU cadaver program was established in 1985. It has since grown to more than 200 GCU students who work on the lab’s 18 cadavers.
Priscilla Morales, who plans to be a physician’s assistant, says an actual body is better than any textbook.
“We get to know far more detail about the human body than our basic anatomy classes here,” she said. “Maybe (the person) had some sort of abnormality in their heart; maybe that’ll affect some other organ in their body because of what they died from.”
Future OB-GYN Rachel Wayne said she saw a cadaver once that had a large ovarian tumor – but the patient’s symptoms were mistaken for old age.
“I would have never been able to wrap my head around the size of the tumor in a textbook,” she said.
Faculty instructor Michael Bodeen said the atlas project is great. However, he feels the cadaver work is preparing his students for medical studies far better than any textbook or lecture.
“Can you imagine?” he said. “Going into medical school, not having to be under the stresses that a typical anatomy student at their first semester, second semester, dissection courses (would) have?”
The atlas project should be completed within the next year. Bodeen said the first edition will be for GCU students only. After mistakes are fixed, he said, the university hopes to market the atlas elsewhere.