Cadaver lab becomes classroom for high-schoolers |

Cadaver lab becomes classroom for high-schoolers

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS cadaver 1 KA 11-13-08

VAIL ” A sterile odor and gasps of shock filled the lab as the doctor uncovered a large plastic tray to reveal the shoulder of a human cadaver.

There were excited laughs and grimaces from the roomful of high school students as they watched William Sterett, an orthopedic surgeon at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, slice away the pale, hairy skin, work through the underlying gooey, yellow fat, and into the deep-red muscle tissue.

The cadaver dissections are part of an anatomy and sports medicine class offered at local high schools. Besides watching the dissections done by Steadman-Hawkins surgeons, athletic trainers and other medical experts from the clinic come into classrooms to talk with students.

“We’ve had success with it,” said Steadman-Hawkins athletic trainer Bryan Diekmann. “A lot of students have come back and said that it’s sparked their interest in the medicine field, or that they want to come back and hang out and learn more.”

A unique chance to learn

Sterett carefully cut away to expose the deltoid muscle, which he sliced into to show the students the rotator cuff. He carefully laid out samples of the different parts ” muscles, a nerve, the rubbery skin, the duly gleaming cartilage ” and let the eager students feel the parts.

“Looking back on my own high school experience, we learned a little about anatomy in a book,” Sterett said. “But not even in college did I have a chance to see something like this.”

Athletic training fellow Adam Cary agreed, adding that he was excited to watch the dissection, too.

“When I was their age, we maybe did some dissections, but not on a human done by a surgeon. It’s amazing what they have the chance to learn,” he said.

Cary showed the students slides of the shoulder’s anatomy and different shoulder injuries before Sterett showed them the real thing. Students shouted out the different muscles of the shoulder as Cary pointed to them.

Eagle Valley High School junior Seth Williamson said he is pretty familiar with the shoulder anatomy, since he has been studying it in class, but that he was excited to see the dissection. The class has been interesting, and his interest in learning about athletic medicine started after he separated his shoulder two years ago.

“I’m an athlete, so it’s cool to know how the body works,” said Williamson, who plays football and baseball.

Teaching future doctors

Eagle Valley High School teacher Cory Strickler said the goal of the class is to help students know whether they might be interested in a career in medicine.

“Over 50 percent (of the students) are continuing on and end up pursuing this in college,” she said. “Some want to be doctors, and we get a lot of guest speakers, so they get to learn about many different professions within the medical field.”

Eagle Valley High School junior Molly Walker, who sat with rapt attention in the front row as Sterett dissected the shoulder, said she aspires to be a physician.

She has always been interested in medicine, and the class and the dissection confirmed that she wants to study the subject, she said.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen it,” she said of the dissection. “It was spectacular to see a human ” what I’d actually be working with.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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