Catherine Aiello//The Crown The King’s on the Square building is the home of the new gross anatomy lab, which will allow students in the professional phase of the physician’s assistant program to study cadavers at King’s instead of Misericordia.
The King’s on the Square building is the home of the new gross anatomy lab, which will allow students in the professional phase of the physician’s assistant program to study cadavers at King’s instead of Misericordia. Catherine Aiello//The Crown

The brand-new gross anatomy lab in the King’s on the Square facility has recently received an exciting delivery: ten cadavers, all of which will be extensively studied and examined by the students who are currently in the professional phase of the physician assistant program.

According to the Free Dictionary, gross anatomy is “the study of the organs, parts and structures of a body that are visible to the naked eye.”

Up until this point, King’s has not had its own anatomy lab that has offered cadaver study.  In past years, students in the professional phase of the PA program have had to study cadavers at Misericordia University.  This required these students to travel as a means to partake in this type of study, but this is no longer the case.

To properly honor these new cadavers, a brief blessing was carried out.

Fr. Jack Ryan, C.S.C., the president of the college, facilitated the blessing along with Fr. Thomas Looney.  The two priests were joined by roughly 65 PA majors along with various faculty and staff.

Two PA majors gave readings, and Fr. Ryan blessed the laboratory, cadavers and the student and faculty members that were present.  To conclude the ceremony, Fr. Ryan blessed the cadavers with holy water.

I had the chance to sit down with Fr. Looney and ask him about his opinions on such a ceremony.

Upon hearing that King’s would be installing a gross anatomy lab, he did some outside research and contacted other institutions to see what they did in response to receiving cadavers for study.  He also contacted Diana Easton, who is the head of the PA program, to pick her brain and suggest to her the idea of carrying out a formal blessing.

“The blessing is a great way to express our Catholic identity,” Lonney said.  “Healthcare is important to our Catholic tradition.  The bodies need to be reverenced in a special way.”

When asked about the attending students themselves, Looney was nothing short of impressed.

“They looked extremely professional,” Loonesy said.  “They looked intrigued, but seemed grateful.”

He also commented on the laboratory facility itself.

“It’s an impressive space!”

Suzana Silva and Taylore Bardo, two fourth-year PA students, provided me with their own thoughts on the ceremony.

“It was definitely a unique experience, getting to attend a ceremony like that,” Silva said. “I think the blessing and ceremony of thanks was a wonderful way of allowing us to take time and appreciate such precious and personal gifts which have been given to us to further our education.”

Although she was physically present, Silva found herself needing to remain aware of what the blessing was really about.

“The ceremony did feel somewhat removed,” she said.  “I had to keep reminding myself that we were surrounded by real human bodies which once housed the human souls that so generously donated them to us.”

Bardo expressed a good deal of excitement about the ceremony and the pending cadaver study.

“I really enjoyed the blessing of the cadavers and I thought it was a very nice gesture to be done,” Bardo said.  “I absolutely love the new cadaver lab!”

Both women expressed a similar sentiment about the nature of the cadaver work.

“It feels great to actually be hands on,” Bardo said.

Silva echoed Bardo’s sentiment.

“It’s exciting to be able to get hands-on experience of seeing and learning to be more familiar with the anatomy of the human body,” Silva said. “Especially after having a few semesters of anatomy and now some medicine courses it really helps to be able to see the structures in real life and gain a better understanding.”

The women couldn’t help but feel somewhat nervous about finally getting their hands on the cadavers for the first time.

Silva said that she was afraid that she’d “throw up or pass out, or both,” but that she ended up not suffering from either.

Likewise, Bardo said that her “butterflies went away” when she looked at the bodies “from a medical point of view.”

The company that supplies the cadavers to King’s strictly prohibits any photographs from being taken in the gross anatomy lab.  When asked about this, Bardo and Silva responded with similar answers.

“It is important to show due respect for such a selfless gift and to respect the privacy and feelings of the families involved,” Silva said. “How would any of us feel if we found a picture of someone dissecting a loved one’s body carelessly shared on the Internet?”

Bardo agreed. “Out of curiosity and respect for the families of the cadavers and the actual cadaver itself, we cannot take pictures,” she said.

Silva hopes that a similar blessing ceremony will be carried out at the end of the semester as well.

Silva feels that a semester’s worth of study of these bodies would increase the students’ knowledge of the body even more, and that another blessing “would be much more meaningful and pertinent and we would have a greater understanding of how great a gift we have been given.”