After three years of being offered at Mills College, the Nursing Program finally gained a class cadaver this semester.
Students taking Human Anatomy for Nurses, a required course for nursing students, are using the body.
Richard Cone, a visiting biology professor who teaches physiology and anatomy, believes that this acquisition is a great step forward for the program. “It’s common for human anatomy courses to have a cadaver,” he said. “It brings us in line with other anatomy courses in the area.” He is the only professor at Mills who teaches anatomy.
Before this semester, Mills anatomy students dissected animal parts and visited the anatomy labs to see a body at Samuel Merritt College, according to Cone.
Sophomore nursing student Danielle Clay took anatomy at the College of Marin and said using a cadaver makes a difference in a nurse’s education. “It’s not like looking at a picture or a model because it’s easier to see how everything connects,” she said.
Biology professor Helen Walter also thinks it is good that student nurses can work with a real body. “Do you really want a nurse who hasn’t seen a body before to work on you? I wouldn’t,” she said.
Before class, Cone dissects sections of the cadaver so that students can view the organ and systems first hand. So far, the organs in the torso as well as arm and shoulder tissues can be detached.
When the body is not on display, it is covered in muslin cloth and zipped in a body bag in order to retain its moisture.
One feature that Cone does not regularly display for students is the cadaver’s face. He said that this is done out of respect for the dead and for the students. “It’s an intimacy that’s not comfortable,” he said.
Covering the cadaver’s face is typical for anatomy classes, according to a May 2005 article by San Jose State University’s Spartan Daily.
Dealing with something that was once alive is difficult for some students. Freshwoman Kelly Hill was nervous when she first approached the cadaver.
“I actually thought I was going to pass out,” she said. “I felt comfortable going up with the rest of the class – at least I would have someone to catch me.”
Hill overcame her previous fear, but now has a new hurdle. The cadaver is of a 96 year-old woman and Hill’s grandmother recently died.
“I am not sure how I will feel the next time I examine the cadaver,” she said. “Hopefully, I can hold it together and appreciate how lucky all of us nursing students are to examine a cadaver in our first year at Mills.”
Freshwoman Christine Thrasher is a vegan who has no problem with the cadaver. “It is probably more gross for me to go to a butcher shop than to view an old woman’s chemically-infused body that she willingly offered to science,” she said.
“I am excited to have such a thing to work with while increasing my knowledge of the human body,” she added.
The cadaver is stored in the Anatomy and Physiology Lab in the Natural Sciences Building. The lab was a part of the Psych building, and Cone said he was surprised that the room was not used for cadavers before.
He explained that the floor has a special vent that works air down a gurney to reduce the smell of formaldehyde and flesh, so the room was designed for preserved bodies.
Mills bought the cadaver from UC San Francisco for $2,300. Even though Cone said most anatomy classes procure a new body every year, the cost is too high for Mills. He said he hopes this cadaver lasts for two.