Getting a head start on advanced education programs can be a very powerful incentive for students who aspire to careers in health care.
Whether they are dreaming of becoming doctors, dentists, or physical therapists, those who take the series of courses in the School of Kinesiology that allows them access to the cadaver lab have the opportunity to get that jump start on programs in the health professions. This specialized lab, one of only a few of its kind open to undergraduates, offers hands-on training in human anatomy.
The cadaver-based anatomy courses, which are some of the most sought-after classes on campus, are made possible through a collaborative effort of the LSU School of Kinesiology, the LSU Health Sciences Center, and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. This project had its beginnings in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans temporarily moved portions of its gross anatomy programs to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge. While the programs were in Baton Rouge, the School of Kinesiology developed a plan to establish a human cadaver lab for its majors.
When the programs returned to New Orleans, faculty members of all three schools collaborated to keep the lab open in Baton Rouge. Through the LSU Health Sciences Center, donated human cadavers are assigned, through a strictly regulated and controlled process, to the lab for study; the lab facility itself is managed and coordinated by the staff at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine; and the human anatomy courses were designed and are conducted in the facility by faculty from the School of Kinesiology.
The process through which the Baton Rouge campus was approved for receiving human cadavers was rigorous, and rules for the lab and those who enter are very strict. Faculty members who work with human cadavers attended training and educational sessions that extended over a year. Students are also educated in the proper procedures for working with human cadavers, and only those enrolled in one of the lab courses are allowed entry into the facility.
Assistant Professors Wanda Hargroder and Melissa Thompson and Professor Dennis Landin, of the School of Kinesiology, are the original advocates and organizers of the lab. Hargroder teaches the introductory lecture course that is required before students are allowed to enroll in the cadaver courses. Students who earn either an “A” or “B” in the lecture course can enroll in the fall or spring prosection classes. If students complete this introductory course with an “A,” they have the opportunity to participate in the summer classes in which the cadavers are dissected for study in the prosection classes.
Clinical Assistant Professor Martha Littlefield maintains the facility for both the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Kinesiology students and particularly appreciates the quality of the instruction the students receive in the human anatomy courses. Because the facility is housed in the School of Veterinary Medicine, students also have the opportunity to take advantage of comparative anatomy, examining the cadavers of animals as well.
“This comparative approach is impressive,” Littlefield explained. “Students seldom have the types of experiences that are available through this program.”
The program that leads to the courses in Kinesiology’s human anatomy series is not for the faint of heart or for the casual student. Known for the advanced content of its course work, the program primarily draws highly motivated, serious students with a passion for health care.
“The human anatomy courses are tough, but the students I’ve seen are very serious about their work,” Littlefield commented. “They’re putting 100% effort into the course when they’re in the lab.”
Hargroder and Landin agree. Landin is particularly struck by the fascination he sees in his students when they are in the lab. “We are truly ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’” Landin commented, paraphrasing the biblical psalmist. “And watching these students come to that same realization is one thing that makes these courses so special.”