“In a donor’s death, we learn about life.” That’s how Enaam Chleilat describes the impact of U of G’s human anatomy program during last month’s launch of a $4-million fundraising campaign for a planned human anatomy learning centre.
The proposed centre will help meet growing student demand, provide additional space and equipment, and help make Guelph’s anatomy program self-sufficient, says Prof. Lawrence Spriet, chair of the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences (HHNS).
The campaign kickoff took place in mid-February in the Science Complex atrium.
The planned facility will provide embalming and cold-storage space for about 60 preserved cadavers each year. It will also help make Guelph’s anatomy program self-sufficient, says Spriet. “We need this new facility with the ability to embalm on campus.”
Under the program, students learn anatomy through dissections and prosections of human bodies in third- and fourth-year courses.
For years, the program has relied upon medical schools at Western University and McMaster University to provide cadavers. Bodies still come to Guelph from Western as well as from the University of Toronto, Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa.
Guelph began its own human body donation program in 2006, but it still sends cadavers to nearby medical schools for embalming and cold storage facilities.
That’s not an optimal arrangement, says program manager Premila Sathasivam, particularly when embalming needs to begin after hours or on holidays when those other schools are closed. Those schools are also pressed for space and resources for their own programs.
“The medical schools have always done their best to help us meet our needs in terms of cadavers, but we cannot continue to rely on them,” she says.
The proposed building at U of G will also house prosection and plastination laboratories for preparing permanent teaching specimens, as well as museum, classroom and meeting space.
Plans call for the new building to be erected on the site of Zoology Annex II, near the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and Graham Hall.
Teaching labs for Guelph’s human anatomy program in HHNS are located in the Ontario Veterinary College.
Almost 400 U of G undergrads in human kinetics and biomedical science take anatomy courses each year. Those students pursue various health-care careers, including medicine, physiotherapy, kinesiology, chiropractic, athletic therapy, dentistry and nursing.
Chleilat took anatomy for two years during her human kinetics degree. Now working on her master’s in biomedical science and aiming for a research career, she says, “Most students say it’s their favourite course.”
The program also teaches about 2,700 working health-care professionals, as well as college and high school students each year.
Although enrollment in Guelph’s undergrad anatomy courses is capped at the current number, Spriet says the new facility will help grow the U of G outreach program. “We’re interested in being able to put on new courses.”
Says Mike Emes, dean of the College of Biological Science: “For so many students, the experience this program provides is not just a game-changer, it’s a life-changer.
“It changes your outlook on the beauty and the frailty of the human condition. It changes everything that makes us human.”
The first anatomy classes at U of G were taught by Prof. William Boyd in the 1960s. Today Guelph runs the largest undergraduate human anatomy program in Canada.
More than 300 donors have pledged their bodies to the program.