- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

LEROY, Ill. (AP) - Wearing lab coats, safety glasses and gloves and using dissection kits, Alex Huber and Kaitlyn Baughman - with assistance from colleagues - exposed muscle in the forearm of a cadaver of a woman who died of colon cancer.

At another table, Kyle Norman, Alison Brettnacher and Drew Norris worked with others to examine muscles and tendons in the hand of a cadaver of a man who died of a stroke.

At a third table, Dr. Larry Nord, a Bloomington orthopedic surgeon, performed rotator cuff dissection on a cadaver of a man who died of a heart attack. Eleven people in lab coats looked on intently and asked questions.

The room had a faint odor of Formalin, a preservative used to maintain cadavers and prevent mold. Walls were covered with human anatomical charts.

During the Human Anatomy Cadaver Dissection Lab on May 7, 33 students gathered around the three cadavers while answering questions posed by Nord; Dr. Tom Pliura, an emergency physician and lawyer; Dr. Dan Gibson, an Advocate BroMenn Medical Center second-year family practice resident; Dr. Greg Guard, an OSF St. Joseph Medical Center emergency physician; and Dr. Jonathan Foss, a radiologist with Bloomington Radiology.

But the 33 weren’t medical students. They’re advanced-level high school biology students participating in what McLean County Medical Society organizers believe is the only cadaver dissection lab in the country for high school students.

“I think this opportunity is unique,” said Gibson, who oversees each lab session and previously taught a cadaver lab at Michigan State University.

“Whenever you have an opportunity to expose kids to something new, you have to jump on it,” said Mike Troll, among McLean County high school science teachers involved in the lab. Teachers at the May 7 session were Troll from University High School in Normal, Lisa Tomlin of Normal Community West and Jim Zeleznik of LeRoy.

“I’ve never heard of this before,” Troll said of the lab. “The students have taken ownership of their learning.”

Dissections weren’t being performed in a medical center but in a refinished, formerly empty back room of Pliura’s law office.

The lab is sponsored by the county medical society, led by its secretary, Pliura, and its president, Nord. With a U.S. physician shortage predicted by 2020, the society wants to inspire the next generation of doctors, nurses and physician assistants.

But Pliura and Nord wanted to provide that inspiration with something beyond traditional job-shadowing.

“Everything starts with anatomy,” Nord said. But why a cadaver dissection lab?

“It’s hands-on,” Nord said.

Pliura got the support of several McLean County physicians to assist with lab sessions and Gary Tipsword, LeRoy schools superintendent.

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