Taking students beyond their textbooks

By Jan Jarvis

SMU students in anatomy lab
Photo by Jill Johnson

Southern Methodist University senior Sarah Levin stared at the body before her in the Anatomy Lab at UNT Health Science Center.

“I’ve seen ligaments and tendons in textbooks,” she said. “But now I’m actually seeing all the things I learned in class in real life.”

That reaction was exactly what Rita Patterson, PhD, had in mind when she invited SMU juniors and seniors to visit the lab for a lesson they were unlikely to forget.

“This is a chance to see how tendons look different from muscles,” said Patterson, Professor of Family Medicine at UNTHSC. “You have to know anatomy if you’re going to understand how the body moves.”

The Anatomy Lab visit is part of a collaboration combining SMU’s sports medicine expertise with UNTHSC’s clinical expertise in the musculoskeletal system.  Two graduate students from UT Arlington also attended. Most of the students are planning to pursue careers in health care.

For many, it’s an eye-opening experience, said Peter Weyand, PhD, Associate Professor in Applied Physiology and Wellness at SMU.

“This is the first opportunity for a lot of them to actually see the anatomy of the human body,” he said. “This lab provides context that can’t be found in a textbook.”

Students are also made aware of the gift the donors have made, said Geoffrey Guttmann, PhD, Associate Professor in the Center for Anatomical Sciences at UNTHSC.

“People who donate their bodies want to help students with their education and give them an opportunity to practice,” he said. “They want them to have every opportunity to make a mistake here instead of on a live patient.”

Many of the students found the experience sparked an even greater interest in sports medicine and other professions.

Brandon Niven, who plans to become a physical therapist, said he was surprised by how different a real body looks compared to models and drawings.

“You don’t really understand completely all the different parts of the body until you actually see one,” he said.

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