Cadaver lab adds 3-D element to DPT program

August 10, 2011

By Ivy Hillman ’12

The cadaver lab class of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program provides students the kind of practical learning one can never get from a textbook.

“The cadaver dissection experience allows the students to discover the three-dimensional relationships of the anatomy. This three-dimensional understanding is very difficult to appreciate on two-dimensional drawings or computer images,” said Dr. A.J. Strubhar, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Health Science.

“Some of the illustrations and photos are very good but cannot compare to the cadaver experience,” said Morgan Belskamper, a student in the program.

In order to get this better perspective, people have to be willing to donate their bodies to science once they pass away. Without this, the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program might be totally different today.

“This is a remarkable learning experience and we are ever mindful of the generosity of the individuals that have willed their bodies for the education of health professionals. It is quite a privilege that we do not take for granted,” Strubhar said.

Bradley’s cadaver lab includes six different bodies. This number allows the students to understand typical variations that can occur in the human anatomy.

“This is a valuable lesson when dealing with differences in real patients,” Strubhar said.

Although this may seem like an experience that most people would not enjoy, the students come to appreciate the learning opportunity.

“Cadaver lab can be a little frightening at first, but by the end I think everyone became comfortable working in the lab,” said Brian Fisher, a graduate student in the program.

“It is really exciting when you stumble onto a structure that you haven’t seen yet,” said Andrew Stewart, another student in the program.

Graduate student Joey Ganske is enjoying the possibilities that both the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and the cadaver lab will give him in the future.

“Right now I am pretty much open to anything. The field of physical therapy has many different areas ranging from pediatrics to neurology to geriatrics. Understanding anatomy and how the body moves is something that is found in all areas of PT, so having the cadaver experience will definitely benefit me in my career,” Ganske said.

Fisher agrees and appreciates the investment Bradley puts into its students and their futures.

“I would love to help rehabilitate athletes at this point, but some day I may fall in love with working in pediatrics, geriatrics or something else. Part of what is so great about DPT school is that the future is wide open and Bradley provides us with the opportunity to experience several different environments in which to work,” Fisher said.

No matter what path his students choose, Strubhar knows that the cadaver lab may be some of the best experience they can get.

“I am extremely proud of the hard work the students put into this course. I think the benefits to their professional education are tremendous and very much worth the cost,” Strubhar said.