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Indiana University Northwest and IU School of Medicine – Northwest receive international recognition with Associated Press story

Article and video essay focus on the close relationship between a medical student and the family of an anatomical donor, part of a unique anatomy education program created by IUSM-NW Prof. Ernest Talarico, Ph.D.


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Yesterday, Sept. 12, 2010, Indiana University Northwest and the IU School of Medicine – Northwest (IUSM-NW) received international recognition from an article and video essay bylined and produced by the Associated Press (AP) Chicago bureau.

National AP Health Reporter Lindsey Tanner and AP Videographer Martha Irvine reported on second-year medical student Lucas Buchler's close relationship with the family of anatomical donor Dorothy ‘Dot’ Purcell, whose family hails from Munster, Ind. The article and video essay recall Dot’s life and generous spirit, and depict the positive impact that her decision to donate her body to medical education has had on her family, on student physician Buchler, and on the unique gross anatomy program created 11 years ago by Ernest Talarico, Ph.D.

Talarico is the assistant director of medical education and course director for human gross anatomy and embryology at IUSM-NW, and his innovative approach to gross anatomy education is aimed at emphasizing the dignity and humanity of the body donors who become his student doctors’ first patients.

As part of the “Talarico Protocol for Human Gross Anatomy” (TPHGA), medical students are given the opportunity to correspond with, and sometimes even meet the families of the donors they work with during their first-year anatomy class. It’s an experience, Talarico said, that can have a fundamental impact on their future interaction with patients.   

“The relationship and bond that is developed between the medical students and the donors’ families is truly unique,” Talarico said. “To the best of my knowledge, this approach to medical education is not practiced at any other schools in the nation.

“I firmly believe the relationships formed between students and donor families are invaluable to the medical students’ education; the donor becomes their first patient,” he continued.  “But just as important, this process helps the families of the donors with the grieving process of their loved ones. I’ve been told by families that it as if their loved one is still a part of their daily life.”

Since the AP story was first released on Sunday, the article and video essay have been picked up by more than 200 online news outlets and published in multiple newspapers.

Notably, the story has appeared on,,, and Yahoo!

News, among many other outlets. To view the article and video essay by national AP journalists Lindsey Tanner and Martha Irvine, click on the below link:

“The earned media coverage our program and IUSM-NW have received is literally priceless,” said Patrick Bankston, Ph.D., dean of the IU Northwest College of Health and Human Services and assistant dean and director of IUSM-NW.

“This national and international coverage and exposure allows us to tell the story of ‘The Talarico Protocol for Human Gross Anatomy’ to the world,” Bankston continued. “Our medical school sees great value in this approach to medical education. Lessons like empathy, respect, and human dignity are often difficult to teach, but by working with the families of our donors, students learn these compassionate skills experientially.”

In addition to the AP story, Talarico’s unique approach to human gross anatomy has also received other national and international press. Stories of note recently published include the Wall Street Journal’s Health blog (Aug. 4, 2010; Katherine Hobson), Reuters (Aug. 11, 2010; James Kelleher) and WBBM-TV (Jan. 15, 2010; Pamela Jones).

For more information on IUSM-NW, visit the Web at For more information on IU Northwest and the College of Health and Human Services, visit the web at