- Institute Learning
In January 2022, 15 students from Perkiomen’s Medical Institute participated in a human torso cadaver workshop at the Venel Institute in Bethlehem, Pa. Led by St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) neurosurgeons, the students learned about the anatomy, physiology, injuries and diseases and treatment of the human spine.
The day-long, hands-on workshop featured SLUHN neurosurgical spine specialists Doron Rabin, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery Surgery, and Hugh Moulding, MD, Director of St. Luke’s Brain and Spine Tumor Center. Both surgeons donated their time and skills for the day. Assisting with the event was Matt Dilberto P ’21, ’24 of Medtronic, whose generous grant made the experience possible. Medtronic also supported a similar experience for students in 2019.
“This was an exciting opportunity for us to teach in-depth knowledge about the spine to the next generation of healthcare professionals who may be taking care of us in the future,” says Rabin. “We were honored to interact with these inspired teens from the school’s Medical Institute.”
Prior to entering the lab, the doctors presented common injuries and diseases of the spine and explained a range of treatment options, including surgery.
“By explaining how we decide which treatment is appropriate, given symptoms and pathology of a condition, students can gain insight into our day-to-day activities as St. Luke’s neurosurgeons,” says Moulding.
Students were free to ask questions about career paths, types of surgeries, post-op steps, and the use of artificial intelligence. The surgeons also discussed their lifestyles and what qualities are needed for success, imparting the advice that before you can choose a specialty, you need to know yourself.
Following the opening session, Rabin and Moulding dissected cadavers to reveal to students the muscles, bones, nerves, and spinal cord. Access to this type of unique hands-on experience is rare for a high school student. What is even more special is that they didn’t just watch the surgeons demonstrate dissection and procedures, with their expert guidance, the students were able to hold the instruments and perform the steps themselves.
"Scrubbed in at the table, being able to experience an analysis of what lies below our skin has been more insightful than any diagram or model could be,” says Brianna Jones ‘23. “This experience revealed the harmony required for not only proper bodily function but also surgical procedures and everyday life.”
The Medical Institute exposes students to a range of opportunities for exploring science, from conducting their own research to meeting and learning from professionals working in all aspects of the field. Workshops like the cadaver lab can spark or affirm students’ interest in pursuing a medical career after high school.
George Weiler ’22 is interested in a career in physical therapy. Post-operative physical therapy can improve pain and reduce surgical complications, accelerating the healing process. The lab helped him to see more clearly how the fields go hand-in-hand.
“The lab was useful because I had the chance to see how surgeries connect with physical therapy,” says Weiler. “It was a very enlightening experience. The lecture about different spinal conditions and the surgeries that can fix them was very interesting. Although, the highlight was when we got the chance to go into the cadaver lab and operate on real cadavers. Seeing the anatomy of the spinal cord in person and getting the chance to perform different spinal surgeries was vastly intriguing.”
Director of the Medical Institute Dr. Jeffrey Rodgers appreciates that students like Jones and Weiler recognize that participating in this type of transformative educational experience now, will undoubtedly set them up for success in the future.
“The cadaver dissection lab was a unique opportunity for Perkiomen students which allowed them to explore interest in medicine in a hands-on and close-up manner,” says Rodgers. “I was impressed with all our students in terms of their thoughtful and insightful questions for the mentoring neurosurgeons both during the pre-lab lecture and the dissection itself. It made me incredibly happy to see the obvious eager engagement of the students.”
The impact of the experience will go beyond just the 15 students who participated in January.
“I will be able to incorporate reflections on this experience into my Anatomy & Physiology and Foundations of Medical Field classes,” says Rodgers, “including the valuable first-hand perspectives of the neurosurgeons.”
Scrubbed in at the table, being able to experience an analysis of what lies below our skin has been more insightful than any diagram or model could be. This experience revealed the harmony required for not only proper bodily function but also surgical procedures and everyday life. -- Brianna Jones ‘23