Countless discoveries have come from people donating their bodies to science. Before CPR was studied on cadavers, people would whip unconscious patients with stinging nettle, according to the American Heart Association.
But Idaho State University’s anatomical donation program doesn’t have enough cadavers. The cadaver is used in 15 of ISU’s medical programs, including occupational and physical therapy, physician’s assistant, dental and dental hygiene.
“That is the opportunity and privilege of conducting a dissection of a whole body as part of the basis of their medical education,” said Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology in the department of biological sciences at ISU and the director of the anatomical donation program in Idaho.
“In occupational and physical therapy, there’s much more emphasis on the muscular and skeletal nervous system,” Meldrum said. “The dental students spend a much more focused semester looking at head and neck anatomy.”
But with 500 students using the anatomy and physiology lab each semester, plus the students at the Meridian campus, the program needs more donors.
At most, only 25 percent of the cadavers are from Idaho donors. The majority of donations come from the University of Utah.
“At the best of times, we would get maybe a dozen donations. We’re now up to where we need at least twice that number,” Meldrum said.
Now, with technology advancing, it begs the question: Why can’t students just use virtual cadavers?
“There’s just nothing that compares to that experience,” Meldrum said. “The difference is striking and very clear to both us as the instructors and the students who have had the experience.”
There are some stipulations to be a donor, excluding extreme obesity, presence of viral pathogens such as AIDS or hepatitis, patients with dementia and more.
To find out if you’re eligible or to find out how to become a donor, click here. Next of kin can also donate a recently deceased relative’s body.
Bodies that are donated will benefit students for years, even after dissection.
“The gift can go on and on for quite some time and provide an opportunity for hundreds if not thousands of students,” Meldrum said.
Donating a body to science can also help relieve part of the financial burden of funeral and burial costs, as ISU pays for the transportation of the body, embalming and, eventually, cremation.