Students become surgeons dissecting fetal pigs in anatomy
It’s that time of year again at Keystone Oaks! The halls smell like chemicals and the science students are buzzing with excitement. At the end of each semester, it’s tradition for Dr. Bowlin’s Human Anatomy students to have the opportunity to dissect fetal pigs as a part of their final exam. This way, they can visualize exactly what the body systems they’ve studied all semester look like in real life.
Many think this is inhumane to the pigs to be cut open for science, but these specimens have never been born, only harvested from female pigs that were already dead. The fetal pigs have felt no harm being removed from the mother nor during the lab. They come into the classroom shipped in gallons of embalming fluid, or formaldehyde, ready to be examined and the students begin to get excited.
This is a week-long lab that begins with the students investigating the external aspects of the pigs. After discovering how similar the pig’s frame is similar to the human body, students become surgeons. The first incision, with a real scalpel, cuts the umbilical cord that fed the pig during its gestation period. Students analyze the veins and arteries that carried nutrients from the mother to the fetus, and then begin cutting through skin.
The scalpel cuts like butter through the thick layers of skin as the students make incisions up and across the pig’s body to open up the abdominal cavity. When it’s opened, students are exposed to the liver, spleen, stomach, and both small and large intestines. After carefully examining these organs, they are carefully removed one by one and cut into to further the discovery of what these organs look like. Many students ran into issues when dissecting the stomach and intestines, for they were filled with a greenish brown paste that was the pig’s processed food. When these organs were removed, students could explore the kidneys and reproductive systems of their specimen, as well as the urinary system.
After stomaching the abdominal cavity, students moved onto the chest cavity where its heart, lungs, and pulmonary system is held. The heart was emphasized the most, cutting it out of the chest and then dissecting it alone. The heart opened like a book, revealing ventricles, atriums, arteries, and veins. After the cardiac system was analyzed, students followed the trachea up into the chest and finally have the ability to examine the head.
Dr. Bowlin offered students a special challenge: if they had enough time to remove the brain, he would keep it in a jar for prospective students to inspect. Only a few students were able to conquer this obstacle, including Kat Hoffman, junior. She spent hours chipping away at skull bones and snipping optic nerves. After severing the spinal cord, she released the brain from its holding.
Students who take the nonessential course of learning about the human body are given the magical opportunity to evaluate the body systems in real life and have the power to hold the organs that give an organism life. Students truly appreciate the moments they were given during this lab.
“I thought it was pretty cool. It’s an opportunity a lot of students don’t get. I’m really glad I was able to get this chance,” said senior Abby Wokenfuss.
“It’s interesting that students can learn this stuff in school instead of later if they decide to go into that field,” responded Zach McKay, junior.
The fetal pig dissection is one of the advantages of the human anatomy class, and Dr. Bowlin continues to amaze students with this lab.