News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 4, 2011

Hands on anatomy: Valley students learn about health careers at ISU

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — As David Dominguese stood beside the brown and beige human cadaver, he took one of its dissected organs, held it and asked a group of high school students if they knew what it was.   

It was a liver, and he passed it around for the health career students to examine and feel. Everyone wore blue latex gloves.

“It’s not every day you get to feel a real liver, right?” said Dominguese, assistant professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation at Indiana State University.

He pointed to other organs, including the heart and a lung. He showed how the female cadaver had undergone both knee and hip replacement surgery.

He also pointed to a leg bone and asked students what it was called. A student correctly answered, “tibia.” He noted a “huge fracture” in the bone that is “obviously not supposed to happen.”

Students listened with interest and respect as they learned first-hand about the human body at ISU’s gross human anatomy lab.

The 29 health career students came from Linton-based Twin Rivers Career and Technical Education Area; they attend seven high schools in Greene and Sullivan counties.

The high school juniors and seniors got a behind-the-scenes look at health care careers Thursday during a visit to ISU’s College of Nursing, Health and Human Services.

The students heard presentations by ISU faculty and graduate students as well as medical students from the Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute. Topics ranged from ankle injuries to heart disease and diabetes.

The highlight was the 45 minutes the students spent inside the college’s gross human anatomy (cadaver) lab, where they saw and touched human organs, muscles and tissues.

Students were fascinated, not squeamish, as they learned more about anatomy, body systems and the impact of various diseases. A separate group of 39 high school students visited on Tuesday.

The project was a joint effort between the college and the West Central Indiana Area Health Education Center, said, Dominguese, the lab’s director. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to learn” and hopefully encourage their interest in health care professions, he said.

The high school students moved through stations at which they learned about different parts of human anatomy. Rhiannon Barnhart, a physician assistant student at ISU, talked to them about the kidney, spleen and stomach.

At another station, Clare Quinn-Bowers, another ISU physician assistant student, talked to students about the liver and lungs. She pointed to black spots on the lung, indicating the person it belonged to had probably been a smoker. “This is an American Lung Association ‘do not smoke’ ad,” she said.

Heather Mata, the ISU physician assistant program director, showed students a brain, describing the anatomy, how it functions and the impact of a stroke.

Carmen Cross, a registered nurse and  instructor for the Twin Rivers health careers program, has taught the class eight years and this was their first time to visit the anatomy lab.

“We’re so excited they have this opportunity,” Cross said. “It’s amazing.”

Michelle Loveless, a senior at Sullivan High School, described the experience as “awesome. It’s really educational and I’m learning from it.”

She’s dissected a pig before, but she’s never had hands-on experience with human anatomy. “I wanted to touch everything,” she said. “It’s cool to see how everything works together.” 

Loveless aspires to be an anesthesiologist, and the visit to the anatomy lab reinforced her career goals.

Sabra Baker, White River Valley junior, wasn’t sure how she’d react to the anatomy lab. “I thought I’d get sick,” she said. But she didn’t, and she found the learning experience “very interesting.” She wants to study radiology.

Brittany Knight, a Sullivan High School junior, wants to be a registered nurse. After the visit to the anatomy lab had concluded, she said, “I loved it.” She liked seeing first-hand the muscles, bone structure and blood vessels. 

 “It’s a lot better than seeing it in a book,” Knight said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or