The human touch

Cadaver training gives rehab providers inside look at human body

July 9, 2014

Dr. Alex Hall kept the mood light as a group of rehabilitation professionals viewed preserved human organs in Jarvis Hall Science Wing at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

"Wow, look at the small intestines. Aren't they gorgeous? They're almost like coral, like a coral reef," Hall said, eliciting soft chuckles from a few of the 10 professionals circling her.

When Hall held up a liver, she noted that the organ is bigger than what humans need. One professional remarked, "Not in Wisconsin."

With two cadavers ready for dissection, Dr. Alex Hall, center, talks with the rehabilitation professionals.Hall, a family practice physician in Menomonie and an adjunct instructor in biology at UW-Stout, led the group through a series of stations. She carefully handled organs while explaining their importance and pointing out intricate details.

The group was from the physical rehabilitation department at Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar in Menomonie. Over two days, 20 providers — 10 each day — took a continuing education course through UW-Stout's Discovery Center and the university's cadaver program in the biology department.

The group included physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, licensed athletic trainers and an acupuncturist.

After viewing organs and discussing anatomy with Hall, the rehabilitation providers really got down to business. In the middle of the lab were two cadavers on gurneys covered with white sheets.

Dr. Alex Hall talks about the brain and spinal cord during the cadaver training program. When the prosected cadavers were uncovered from the neck down, the providers showed no hesitation and in small groups began identifying parts of the body they examine and treat daily.

With skin and tissue cut away, they were touching the cadavers' actual muscles, nerves, tendons and joints.

One cadaver was on its back and one on its stomach, each with different internal organs and parts exposed. One cadaver was male and one female.

After doing identification, the providers, wearing white lab coats, goggles and purple examination gloves, then dissected four joints on the cadavers: shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles.

"They can actually see the muscles they work with everyday," said Jodi Dotseth, director of the rehabilitation department at Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar. She accompanied the group.

For the training session, UW-Stout was supplied with a new cadaver with intact muscles and joints. Three trained UW-Stout undergraduate students did the prosection in advance, clearing the way for professionals to perform more detailed dissections.

One of the rehabilitation providers, Dr. Paul Greene, said the training was helpful for him as a professional. "This course brought human anatomy to life. Knowing the integral structures of the human body is essential and the basis of our jobs," Greene said. "Dr. Hall was a fantastic instructor. What we learned was directly applied to our jobs the very next day."

Ann ParsonsSome in the group previously had cadaver training in college but others, because of their area of specialty, had not experienced this level of training, Dotseth said.

Cadavers and science at UW-Stout

Along with UW-Stout, schools in the UW System with undergraduate cadaver programs are UW-Madison, UW-La Crosse and UW-Oshkosh, said Professor Ann Parsons, director of UW-Stout's cadaver program.

The cadaver program is part of UW-Stout's applied science undergraduate major. Students in applied science can take a preprofessional track, preparing them for further education in health care, including physical therapy ormedical school.

Cadaver training for health-care professionals is one way for UW-Stout to provide community outreach. The university and Discovery Center hope to provide more training opportunities at Jarvis Hall, said Charles Bomar, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Science Wing was added to Jarvis Hall, and the Tech Wing was renovated during a $43 million project that wrapped up in 2010.

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Photo captions

Top: With two covered cadavers ready for dissection, Dr. Alex Hall, center, talks with a group of 10 rehabilitation professionals from Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar in Menomonie.

Middle: Dr. Alex Hall talks about the brain and spinal cord during the cadaver training program. Along with cadaver dissection, the training included viewing and discussing human organs.

Bottom: Ann Parsons