While classmates may be intimidated with working on a cadaver, two Eastern New Mexico University students are eager to put on scrubs and seize the rare opportunity.
Junior Meghan Howard is among the students in the science department that gets to work with the school's first cadaver, which was donated to the science department and arrived in December.
"It's kind of exciting to go from cats and pigs to working on a human," said Howard, who added she's one of only a handful of students in her class who wants to work with the body.
The donated body was a 72-year-old Hispanic male from Phoenix who died of lung cancer, according to ENMU officials.
Matthew Barlow, assistant professor of biology, was a driving force in bringing the cadaver to ENMU.
"I think it is a little bit shocking when you see it at first; you probably find it to be hitting a little close to home and we try to compensate for those feelings," Barlow said. "It is not required that students be in the lab, but this enhances the experience for those who really want to pursue a pre-allied health field."
Trace Schwerman, a junior in Barlow's anatomy class, has already had experience working with cadavers in a health program he was a part of in high school.
"I'm very grateful that he gave his body to us so that we can learn from it," Schwerman said.
Schwerman and Howard haven't worked with the cadaver that much yet, but they jump at any opportunity they can to get into the lab, which usually can have up to 10 students at one time.
"So far what we've done is pull out a cancer plug. A plug that they can induce medicine into (the body) and that was kind of interesting," Schwerman said. "I'm looking forward to getting into the thorax, the heart and the lungs."
Schwerman, who hopes to get in a physical therapy program, preferably in Texas, says working with the cadaver will aid him greatly with his future plans.
"It's much different from watching an anatomical figure that's made by computers and then to see it on a person in real life and real size, you know, full scale, and to really see how it connects and how everything integrates," Schwerman said.
Howard said working with the cadaver is giving her more options to think about. She planned on studying dermatology but now she's looking at other paths in the medical field.
"The experience is pushing me more towards internal medicine," Howard said.
Barlow's classes are working on the cardiovascular system and eventually the digestive system this semester.
Barlow said the department has a contract for 36 months to keep the body, at which time it will be returned to the family for cremation.
The science building underwent renovation recently in which a cadaver room was installed, a room that can hold up to three bodies, according to Barlow.
Barlow believes the cadaver will be a great recruiting tool for the science department as well as important for hands-on experience.
"I hope for the students' sake that it gets them better prepared and gives them an idea of the avenue that they want to pursue," Barlow said.
He says it's becoming less common and really expensive for other universities to acquire and keep cadavers.
"But at a place like ENMU that's growing so much, it's an advantage," Barlow said.