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Indiana University Northwest, IU School of Medicine - Northwest and Methodist Hospitals partner to teach medical imaging using body donors

Students and cadaver program volunteers gain experience working with x-rays, ultrasounds, MRI and CT scans

Christopher Sheid, Indiana University Northwest – Office of Marketing & Communciations
Andrea Albajar Bobes and Loyola Garcia-Atance Garcia, both medical students from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, review ultrasounds of body donors as part of the medical imaging for the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program.

Indiana University Northwest and IU School of Medicine - Northwest (IUSM-NW) students, faculty and cadaver program volunteers convened for two days this month to conduct medical imaging of human anatomical donors and fetuses on the IU Northwest campus and at Methodist Hospitals Imaging Services in Merrillville.

The x-rays and ultrasounds were taken July 16 in a radiological lab at IU Northwest's College of Health and Human Services (CHHS); the following day, students, faculty and volunteers assisted in transporting the donors to Methodist Hospitals' Merrillville imaging facility, where they observed and assisted as hospital staff took MRI and CT images of the adult body donors and of three preserved fetuses.

The medical imaging was conducted prior to the upcoming International Human Cadaver Prosection Program (IHCPP), a three-day, hands-on anatomy workshop to take place in early August at IUSM-NW. During the program, non-physician and non-medical student volunteers will become active participants in a medical lab by preparing body donors for the Fall 2010 gross anatomy class.

Day one of medical imaging involved full-body x-rays and ultrasounds of the six body donors and three fetuses. Radiography and ultrasound students from IU Northwest's CHHS worked alongside cadaver program volunteers.

The benefit of the medical-imaging exercise is threefold. First, the x-rays and other images inform prosectors about any implants or irregularities within the donors that might be problematic to the dissection process or that might be useful as teaching points. Second, the radiology students and medical students gain valuable experience in taking film and interpreting the images. Finally, students from different medical disciplines learn how to work together and respect each other's roles in the healthcare process.

"This hands-on experience is an invaluable learning opportunity," said IHCPP program director Ernest Talarico, Jr., Ph.D., who is the assistant director of medical education and course director of human gross anatomy and embryology at IUSM-NW. "Through this exercise, so much more is taught than just medical imaging techniques. Those involved learn to collaborate with individuals from various medical disciplines, how to review imaging results, and, most importantly, respect and dignity for the donors we've had graciously donated."

Erika Lopez, ultrasound student at IU Northwest, took part in the medical imaging so she could further her knowledge base and collaborate with other professionals and students studying healthcare.

"This opportunity is bringing us (medical imaging students and prosectors) all together," she said. "And it's making the medical students realize how important diagnostic medicine is. Imaging leads to diagnosis and helps doctors to understand if further testing and imaging is needed to assist in a patient's recovery."

Real-world experience

The second day of medical imaging involved the transportation of donors and fetuses to Methodist Hospitals via three ambulances donated by PROMPT Ambulance Services of Highland, Ind.

Students and prosectors gained real-world, hands-on experience at Methodist while assisting the hospital's technologists during high-resolution CT and MRI imaging of donors and fetuses.

Luis Marquez, Director of Imaging Services at Methodist, noted the hospital understands the importance of providing prosection volunteers and medical imaging students with experiences that closely simulate the real world.

"This program is a unique experience and truly is not done anywhere else," he said. "By working with the hospital's technologists and equipment, the students gain a better understanding of what imaging is about. The tools that we have here (at Methodist) teach them about diagnosing pathologies and diseases."

IU Northwest Clinical Associate Professor of Radiography Robin Jones believes this program and partnership between IU Northwest and Methodist shows the direct impact medical collaboration can have on patient care.

"In this setting, my students are able to problem-solve and critically think the problem through," Jones said. "And also, my students have the ability to explain all the technical aspects to pre-med students, which is beneficial because at some point they will actually be working side-by-side. There are so many wonderful aspects to this teamwork approach."

Lessons learned

The medical imaging exercise provided deeper insights than those of discovered tumors, lesions and cysts.

A participant in the upcoming prosection program, Jennifer Lockhart, a CAT Scan Technologist for St. Anthony Medical Center, said she entered into her profession because she wanted to make a difference in someone's life.

"And that's what these donors are doing for me in return," Lockhart said, noting the positive irony. "They are making a difference in my life; I am learning so much that will help me in my profession.

"Being able to hold the fetuses and image them gives you a whole new appreciation for life, especially in the very beginning stages. To image the fetuses and see how they are developed, or not, it's an opportunity I'd never get in my profession, and all of that brings a whole new perception to my profession."

Talarico made a similar observation, noting that students and volunteers who assisted with this year's radiography exercise were given the chance to study the miraculous and humbling progression of human life from its earliest to its final stages.

"I knew the past two days would be intense," he said. "But when I saw Dalibor Plecas (an IU Northwest pre-med student and participant in the upcoming IHCPP) hold the hand of the youngest donor - an 8 to 12 week fetus, and that of our oldest - a donor exceeding 100, I knew our experiences and memories would be unforgettable. We are literally spanning the ages; what an opportunity. I'm speechless."

In addition to Methodist Hospitals and PROMPT Ambulance Services, IUSM-NW is grateful to the sponsors and supporters of the 2010 IHCPP, including Rocco Prosthetics & Orthotic Center, of Cincinnati, and ZIMMER Orthopedics, Zimmer, Inc., of Warsaw, Ind.

For more information on the IHCPP, visit the Web at


Media Contact

Emily Banas
Office of Marketing & Communications

Charles Sheid
Office of Marketing & Communications

Related Links

Body donors at IU School of Medicine – Northwest used to teach medical imaging

IU School of Medicine – Northwest announces 2010 International Human Cadaver Prosection Program volunteers

Additional Article Photos

Christopher Sheid, Indiana University Northwest – Office of Marketing & Communciations
Volunteer prosectors work alongside Methodist Hospitals staff to position a human donor for MRI medical imaging.