Contact: Wendel Sloan at 575.562.2253
PORTALES - Matthew Barlow, assistant professor of biology at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, stands over his subject and makes the first clean incision, informing the students, who observe with rapt attention, that they will be examining the thyroid gland. The two students are eager to watch the procedure, one that is unique and rare, especially for a small university like ENMU, which primarily hosts undergrads in the biology department.
For the first time, ENMU's science department has a cadaver, a donated body, to fill the cadaver room that was installed when the science building was renovated. The 72-year-old Hispanic male from Phoenix, Ariz., died of lung cancer, and ENMU received his body in December.
"When I was first hired a year and a half ago, one of my first assignments was to acquire a cadaver," said Barlow. "We felt it would be a huge draw to add students to our department."
After a year of legal procedures and working with the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine, the department was finally approved for their first cadaver, a rarity even in some larger universities.
The cadaver is a 72-year-old Hispanic male from Phoenix, Ariz., who died of lung cancer.
The bodies, Barlow explained, come from recently deceased people who have registered to have their bodies donated to medical science education. The school will keep the cadaver for a year or a year and a half, then return the cremated remains to the family.
"This is great for many students," Barlow said. "Biology majors with an interest in pre-med, forensic sciences, nursing students, even CDIS and psychology can benefit from this."
The cadaver will allow students hands-on experiences that they can't get from computer programs, Barlow explained.
"You get to integrate the anatomy together, or compare it with a different kind of mammal," he said.
The lab itself is an accomplishment. With an operating table and a three-tiered refrigerated system, the lab can hold up to three cadavers for 24-36 months, meaning that students can study the same cadaver throughout their time at ENMU.
"I chose to do the embalming here," Barlow said, explaining how an embalming solution similar to formaldehyde, was pumped through the vascular system to preserve the body . "We had the option of having the body embalmed before it arrived, but I thought it would be educational for myself and the students to do it ourselves."
Rob Restaino, a graduate assistant in the biology department, is excited for the opportunity this presents him.
"As an undergrad, I never had this opportunity," he explained. For Restaino, this means a more in-depth experience as he works towards his master's.
Samantha Emms, an undergraduate pursuing her biology premed, knows that most undergraduates never get to experience the hands-on experience of working on a cadaver.
"This will give me a leg up when I go to pursue my graduate degree," Emms said.
For both students, and their fellow classmates, the use of the cadaver will be a learning experience like no other.
"There's nothing like a hands-on experience," Barlow said. "It's an unbelievable, unique tool to have at their disposal."
For more information, call Barlow at 575-562-2543.