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OHSU Medical Students To Tour Body Worlds Exhibit

Hundreds of first-year Oregon Health & Science University students will converge on Portland's BODY WORLDS 3 exhibition Friday to see a unique take on what they'll experience in upcoming anatomy classes.

Nearly 400 students, representing OHSU's schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Science & Engineering, the OHSU/Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, and OHSU Allied Health programs, will be joined by several dozen OHSU medical residents, postdoctoral fellows and professors on the tour.

The group will be at Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS 3 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry from 7-9 p.m. Friday. The exhibition features more than 200 authentic human specimens preserved through a groundbreaking method known as plastination.

William Cameron, Ph.D.,associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and faculty adviser to the OHSU Office of Science Education Opportunities, which is organizing the students' experience, says one of the goals of the evening is to give OHSU health professionals, scientists and engineers access to the "extraordinary learning experience" of BODY WORLDS 3, which reinforces the complexity of the human body. 

"There are few venues that could offer such an appreciation of the intricacies of the human body for the healers and researchers of the future," Cameron said.  

Another goal is to bring together students from all of OHSU's schools to mingle and learn more about each other. "The modern health care team integrates many expertises, and interdisciplinary training is an important part of our students' OHSU training," he said.

This week, as fall classes begin at OHSU, several hundred medical, dental, physician assistant and radiation technology students are starting their first gross anatomy courses, where they'll labor long hours to learn the names of thousands of body parts and their anatomical features, relationships, clinical importance and functions.

Students are prepared in advance for the experience of human dissection. Courses foster the notion that the body represents their first patients. They also hear that the body is a gift from a donor who cared about their education. Students typically work as a team of four on each body and are taught that this is their first health care team. Many students are apprehensive about the experience but usually emerge on the other side having mastered the challenge.

Anatomy demonstrator Karmen Schmidt, Ph.D., professor emerita of cell and developmental biology, and pathology (laboratory medicine), OHSU School of Medicine, says the students' visit to the BODY WORLDS 3 exhibition provides them a unique opportunity to peer into the structural wonders of the human body.

"They will emerge much more prepared for the challenge that awaits them to unlock the mysteries of the human body," she said.

Cameron says the plastinates at BODY WORLDS 3 shows students, particularly the new ones, the artistry and exacting nature that is possible in human dissection.

"It's going to set a high bar for them as they prepare to perform their own dissections as part of their early anatomy studies," he said. "For residents, fellows and older students, this will be an important refresher of programs they've already been through on complex anatomical structures of the human body."

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