At Missouri Southern State University, human bodies donated to science are providing a unique, three-dimensional component to the education of Biology undergraduate students.
This spring, the Biology & Environmental Health department began offering its first ever BIO 498-Advanced Human Dissection course, a very rare opportunity for undergraduates to not only study but also dissect human cadavers.
Students study in the Cadaver Lab in Ummel Technology building on the MSSU campus. The Cadaver Lab opened last spring.
“As a department, we are excited to offer this opportunity for our students,” says Dr. Jennifer Dennis, head of the Biology & Environmental Health department. “The key angle here is that undergrads are doing the dissection, not just studying the bodies.”
Dr. Brian Davis, assistant professor of Biology at Missouri Southern, is the instructor of the Advanced Human Dissection course.
“The major benefit of this course is the opportunity to explore human anatomy using cadavers instead of animals or plastic models,” he states.
He says students can directly observe the impact that cancer and other major diseases have on the body.
The cadavers come to Missouri Southern from the willed body program at Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCUMB).
People who donate their bodies to science tend to be elderly people or people with long-term terminal illnesses, people who have time to think about what they can do to help others by willing their bodies.”.
“It’s a highly professionalized process with an emphasis on respect and dignity,” Dr. Davis says.
He says the Cadaver Lab at Missouri Southern currently contains three bodies, one age 54, one around 70 and a woman around age 80.
Dissections of the type available at Missouri Southern State University gives future teachers or surgeons some of their first work with the scalpel. The practice also is key to forensic medicine when doctors attempt to determine a cause of death.
“Students dissecting human cadavers can feel the shapes and texture of human organs,” Dr. Dennis says. “This is better than anything they could learn from a book.”