Indiana University Northwest


Office of Marketing and Communications

red line

Imaging the dead: IU School of Medicine-Northwest cadaver program enters uncharted territory this weekend

Students to participate in taking x-rays, ultrasounds of donors at IU Northwest campus; Methodist Hospitals to assist with MRI and CT imaging

On Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18, the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine - Northwest (IUSM-NW) in Gary, Ind., will launch what is believed to be the first full-scale medical imaging effort of human anatomical donors in connection with a medical gross anatomy class. On Friday, faculty, students and some prosection volunteers will assist in taking x-rays and ultrasounds of six cadaver donors at the IU Northwest College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) radiological lab; on Saturday, those donors will be transported to Methodist Hospitals’ Merrillville campus, where Methodist Hospitals Imaging Services will perform advanced CT and MRI imaging. Students will observe as the hospital’s technologists acquire the images, learning basic skills and interpretive techniques in the process.

“We are excited and most grateful to Methodist Hospitals for their willingness to contribute their time and expertise to the prosection program,” said program director Ernest Talarico, Jr., Ph.D., assistant director of medical education and course director of human gross anatomy and embryology at IUSM-NW. ”Last year’s imaging gave us some very important information about our donors that proved useful to the work of both our prosectors and medical students, as well as student radiographers. I am confident that these additional procedures will yield even greater medical knowledge about each of this year’s donors.”

Now in its 10th year, the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program is a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students and working professionals to gain hands-on anatomy education. Each year, national and international applicants vie for the privilege of assisting in the medical dissection — commonly referred to as “prosection” -- of anatomical donors that will be used in the medical school’s fall gross anatomy classes. This year’s prosectors include participants from Chicago, Indiana, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Vancouver, B.C., and Madrid, Spain. The formal prosection program will take place at the IU Northwest campus in Gary, Ind., on Aug. 5 and 6.

Before the prosection begins, however, select students from the medical school and the CHHS radiologic sciences program will join a number of this year’s prosectors this weekend to take full-body images of the donors. The purpose of this exercise is threefold: the x-rays and other images will inform prosectors about any implants or irregularities in the donors that might be problematic to the dissection process or that might be useful as teaching points; the radiology students and med students will gain valuable experience in taking film and interpreting the images; and students from different medical disciplines will learn how to work together and respect each other’s roles in the healthcare process.

“Medicine is a team-based approach,” Talarico said. “This lets them know what their key counterparts do and the importance of their roles in patient care. It facilitates learning, not only in anatomy but also in radiography, from different perspectives. They are actually teaching each other, and they have to go through problem-solving as a team in order to get the film that they want, and then to be able to interpret what’s there.”

Last year was the first in which the prosection program took x-rays of the donors. This year, ultrasounds and, with the assistance of Methodist Hospitals, MRIs and CT scans, have been added to increase the amount of visual information about each donor and to enrich the learning experience for the students and volunteers. IU Northwest Clinical Associate Professor of Radiography Robin Jones said the images produced through this exercise, including three-dimensional CT images, should also provide added value to students in IU Northwest¹s radiologic science B.S. program.

”It’s 3-D. It’s learning anatomy in three planes,” said Jones, who is also the clinical coordinator of radiography at IU Northwest. ”It’s a lot more advanced than what we did in our lab last year.”

Because it’s the first time such advanced imaging has been attempted on human cadavers, Jones said, the quality of the images cannot be predicted. Some anatomical structures, such as blood vessels, will not be visible, since it’s not possible to highlight them with dye as is done with living patients, she said.

”I feel confident that some of the anatomy is still going to be very well visualized, so that our students will still be able to use the images to learn some basic anatomy,” she said. ”We’ll find out.”

There are 14 colleges and universities represented among this year’s prosection participants. In addition to IUSM-NW and IU Northwest, they include: the University of British Columbia; the University of Massachusetts; IU Bloomington; Purdue Calumet; Indiana State University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine; McHenry County College; the University of Central Florida; NOVA Southeastern University; St. Louis University; and Luther College in Iowa.

Not all prosectors will be involved with the medical imaging, but all should be on hand for the formal prosection event on Aug. 5 and 6.

For more information about the 10th Annual International Human Cadaver Prosection Program or this weekend’s imaging activities, contact Christopher Sheid in the IU Northwest Office of Marketing and Communications at (219) 980-6802, or email him at



Media Contact:

Christopher Sheid

Related Links

Human Cadaver Prosection

Photo by Christopher Sheid/IU Northwest Office of Marketing and Communications
(From left) Volunteer prosectors Bradley Clark, J.J. Cox, Brian Genovesi, and Michael Sandridge assist IU Northwest radiography student and graduate Robert Bailey in positioning a human cadaver for X-rays in the Dunes Medical/Professional radiography lab in July 2008. This year, med students, radiography students and volunteer prosectors will not only take x-rays but also ultrasound images of the donors, while technologists at Methodist Hospitals' Merrillville campus will provide MRI and CT images. Students and volunteers will observe and learn techniques and interpretative skills. IUSM-NW is the only medical school in the country that offers this sort of hands-on human anatomy program to non-med students and volunteers.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]