The wonders of the human body
Students are awarded many unique opportunities during their time here at Luther. One especially rare experience is the cadaver lab tours given by the biology department.
Luther is one of few undergraduate schools to offer a human dissection course. Assistant Professor of Biology Wendy Stevens first established the human dissection lab in 1997. Stevens believes that most people who take the tour will leave impressed with the wonder of examining the human body.
“What people remember is holding a human brain or holding a human heart,” Stevens said. “They remember feeling the Achilles tendon...that stays with you.”
In the class as well as the tours, Stevens and her students conduct themselves professionally and respectfully.
“We handle this lab in two ways,” Stevens said. “One rule is complete respect for the donors and for everybody in the lab. The second thing is just to learn as much as possible.”
Valarie Fyfe (‘12), a biology and chemistry double major, led one of the tours. She explained the personal relationship students in the lab form with the body donors throughout the semester.
“We were given their ages – they’re both 74 – and how they died,” Fyfe said. “We often find out what they did [as a job]. We also receive the first two letters of their first name...at the end of the semester [last year], we held a memorial for them, and it was very emotional.”
According to Stevens, few people feel faint or get sick during the tours. Most people touring the labs are hungry for knowledge about their own bodies.
“A lot of students who go on the tours have come to Luther with the idea of taking this course, and they want to see what it’s like,” Stevens said. “I certainly encourage that.”
The tours are not limited to students considering a science major. In fact, many attendees are faculty and staff members.
“Quite a few staff members have attended dissection tours, which I find interesting,” Stevens said. “In the past, the admissions staff and the development staff have participated in these tours. Anyone on campus is welcome.”
Fyfe believes that with a curious attitude and willingness to learn, anyone can enjoy the tours.
“If you just go in there with the attitude, ‘I want to learn as much as I can in this experience,’ you almost forget what it is and get intrigued by how everything works,” Fyfe said.