Gillette students get hands-on with cadaver lab

Jake Goodrick with the Gillette News Record, via the Wyoming News Exchange

Campbell County High School student April Paz feels the fat inside a limb during a Kids and Cadavers demonstration Saturday at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette. Students experienced a number of lessons and gross-outs during the demonstration, which featured local orthopedic surgeons and human cadavers provider by Arthrex. Photo by Ed Glazar, Gillette News Record. 


Campbell County High School student Riley Orchard covers her mouth as she watches a human cadaver demonstration during a Kids and Cadavers event at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette. Students experienced a number of lessons and gross-outs during the demonstration, which featured local orthopedic surgeons and human cadavers provided by Arthrex. Photo by Ed Glazar, Gillette News Record.

GILLETTE — A human arm — the entire extremity — laid on a table between Dr. Monica Morman and a group of Gillette high school students Saturday morning.


The faces of those students, framed with powder blue surgical garb and matching headwear, were scrunched in a unique way, somewhere between a horrified wince and an astonished gaze.


As they looked on at the limbs — their textbook models come to life — Morman explained the significance of what the students were preparing to do.

“When I was in high school, I never had this opportunity. I don’t know if any of these guys did,” she said, looking to the other medical professionals in the room, who were outnumbered by the dozens of students.


“This is a once in a lifetime unique opportunity. I cannot thank these guys enough.”


And so began the second and soon-to-be annual event: Kids and Cadavers.


It’s a working title, but in its second year, the event has grown to include more students and a larger venue.


Biology and anatomy students from Campbell County and Thunder Basin high schools got the chance to learn from local orthopedic surgeons and go hands-on with real arms, legs, feet and knees. The weekend activity gave students rare access to up-close human anatomy lessons and doubled as a dose of exposure to potential careers in the medical field.


Last year, the field day took place at Black Hills Surgery Center and included all Campbell County students, as anatomy teacher Molly Dykes was among the ringleaders in organizing the pilot run.


This year, it expanded to include Thunder Basin students, an additional surgeon and grew into the surgery wing of Campbell County Memorial Hospital.

“I think it’s going to get bigger and better each year,” Dykes said.


The cadavers were again provided by medical supplier Arthrex, the company that sponsored the field trip and provided the cadavers for educational purposes last year, too.


After the initial introduction by Morman, the initial mob of students was divided into four groups and led into different educational sessions.


Representatives with Arthrex were scattered throughout the operating rooms and hallways of the hospital’s surgery wing, facilitating the surgeon’s lesson plans and supplying them with the tools and hardware needed to perform their mock procedures.


Dr. Robert Grunfeld, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, led a class on the intricacies of the human leg, ankle and foot. Dr. Daniel Liechti, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, gave students a tour through the complexities of the knee. Morman taught students about the shoulder, arm and hand.


“We could spend hours just talking about the hand,” she said.


The morning sessions were for the surgeons to show students the ropes. The afternoon was for the students to take the tools into their own hands and test the limits of their medical curiosity.


Angelina Greenlee, 16, a Thunder Basin junior taking a human anatomy class, taught by teacher Bree Arzy-Mitchell, entered the day with a mix of nervous excitement.


She wants to enter the medical field one day and knows that stomaching the site of cadavers and worse will come with the territory.


“My mom, she used to be a nurse, she said sometimes she would have to take out limbs so I feel like this is preparing me to be able to look at it,” she said, “so I don’t faint on the job.”


Bryan Craver, a 14-year-old biology student at Campbell County, expressed a similar blend of nerves and anticipation ahead of the big day. He too aspires to work in the medical field and was thankful for the chance to learn with real cadavers, surgical tools and renowned medical professionals.

“I just think I’m very lucky to do this, especially in Wyoming,” he said.


Throughout the day, students and the professionals they learned from each shared the gratitude for the opportunity to gain medical experience often reserved for levels of study far beyond high school.


“It’s something like no one else is able to do,” Dykes said. “I’d be surprised if you could find 10 schools in the nation who do that for their kids.”


This story was published on March 14, 2023.


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