Truckee, Tahoe students visit UNR Anatomy Lab

Students looked at a digital display of an autopsy.

RENO, Nev. — Students from Truckee and North Tahoe high schools were given a unique look at the human body last month during their joint field trip to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Anatomy Lab.

North Tahoe students taking sports medicine or AP biology and Truckee students taking human body systems and emergency response courses were offered the opportunity to visit the Anatomy Lab at the UNR Med Pennington Health Sciences Building, and see several demonstrations from medical school staff and students.

About 25 students from each school arrived at UNR on Wednesday, May 24, and while one school toured the lab, the other school went to a lecture hall where they practiced several skills including, knot tying to close sutures, placing a tourniquet and wound packing on silicon kits.

Daniel Coll said this tour is a passion project for him.
Laney Griffo/Sierra Sun

The students touring the lab were split into six groups. One group was led by Lab Manager Lindsey Pisani who spoke about where the cadavers come from and how they are preserved.

UNR Med is contracted with Walton’s Funeral Home for their transportation and cremation of the donors who will their bodies to science. Upon dying, as long as they don’t have a traumatic death and their body is still whole, Walton’s will facilitate the transportation of the body to UNR Med.

The Anatomy Lab has a two-person cooler but donors are embalmed fairly quickly after arrival. The Anatomy Lab does not use a formaldehyde-based fluid because of its negative health impacts on the students and the environment and instead use phenol or alcohol as the main ingredient in the preservative fluid.

Lindsey Pisani talks about the UNR donor program.

Once students are done dissecting the cadaver, the body is returned to Walton’s for cremation. At the end of the first-year medical students’ dissection course they host a memorial service for the friends and families of the donors who died in the previous year.

Following Pisani’s speech, students were given the opportunity to look at the torso of one of the embalmed cadavers.

At other stations, the students were shown x-rays, a digital autopsy table, and a presentation of the head, neck and spine from fake skeletons. Students were also shown a presentation on how hands and feet work, using actual hand and feet prosections and they were able to touch and explore a human heart.

Students learned about head, neck and spine anatomy.

“I thought it was super cool because I’ve definitely known some of those things, like I knew the tendons that move your arms but actually seeing it happen on a cadaver was really cool and got me more interested in human anatomy and how it works,” said Piper Krill, 18, Truckee High School.

Pisani said her goal for the day is to expose the students to the lab and inspire careers in medical fields.

“It’s basically just familiarization [of the lab], it should be available to everyone to go see an anatomy lab and hopefully, we’ll be enticing them to continue to study science and consider one of the many medical science professions,” Pisani said.

Prior to the pandemic, UNR had a partnership with Tahoe Forest Health System which organized several similar tours for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District school. This year’s tour is the first one for TTUSD since COVID-19.

While Tahoe Forest Health did not sponsor this tour, it was largely made possible by Daniel Coll, PA-C orthopedics, physician assistant at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

“It’s a passion project for me, it has less to do with my job and more to do with my professional choice,” Coll said. “We wanted students in the community to know about how many opportunities there are to come and work in health care and even possibly even stay in this mountain community where it’s often hard to recruit and maintain people who aren’t used to living in the mountains and don’t have a connection to the mountains.”

Students learned how to apply a tourniquet.
Laney Griffo/Sierra Sun

Hana Lamb, sports medicine teacher for North Tahoe High School, said she’s really happy the program is back.

“I’m really happy they’re doing this and I really hope that this will be an annual thing for the next 30 years,” Lamb said.

While a few students had to step out of the lab, it was a great experience for many.

“I want to be a doctor so I thought it was really informative and it gave me a little insight into what medical school might be like,” said Grace Hajduk, 17, Truckee High School

North Tahoe High School student Sienna Clark, 16, also has an interest in attending medical school.

“If anything, this kind of made me want to go into more just because I got to see it in real life and it made it more exciting and interesting,” Clark said.

Daniel Coll assists students in the lecture hall.
Laney Griffo/Sierra Sun

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