Busy Bodies

UCF’s School of Medicine opens its bright, shiny new home with an offer that could do a (dead) body good.

Professor Andrew Payer (far left) talks with student Virgil Secasanu amid the dissection tables in the medical school’s anatomy lab.

Courtesy of Ucf College of Medicine

The University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine aims to raise $200,000 from a grand opening celebration Oct. 16 at its new home in Lake Nona. But donors have another option: They can give their bodies to science, as cadavers to be dissected in the anatomy lab.

Such is the Pegasean rise of the College of Medicine, which welcomed its second class Aug. 2. A week earlier, it had gained the distinction, shared only by the med schools at the universities of Florida and Miami, of being licensed to receive gifts of human bodies for study and research.

Which is fitting, because to get to the heart of the progressive College of Medicine, one need only visit the anatomy lab. Historically, these labs have elicited equal parts dread and fascination from first-year med students. They were relegated to the basement, where artificial light and poor ventilation made students feel “like you were living in the underworld,” says Dr. Deborah German, the medical school’s dean.

UCF’s anatomy lab is on the top floor of the four-story complex. Light floods in from windows that overlook protected wetlands. Ceiling vents extract the smell of preserved human bodies; floor vents supply fresh air. Two rows of stainless steel dissection tables run the length of the room, all 22 equipped with touch-screen computers and high-definition overhead video cameras that can project close-ups of procedures or internal anomalies on flat-screen monitors.

“We hope students here have a more celestial experience,” says German.
UCF indeed is heaven compared to many medical schools. Designed by Maurizio Maso of the Orlando architectural firm Hunton Brady, the 170,000-square-foot College of Medicine blends the latest in medical and teaching technologies with a distinct sense of place as the centerpiece of Lake Nona’s Medical City.

The school is designed to facilitate interactive learning as opposed to sitting through lectures and PowerPoint presentations. Classrooms are intimate. Common areas provide an environment, says German, “that encourages lingering and conversation.”

Students in the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center can talk to eerily lifelike, computerized mannequins that feign illnesses and symptoms. In mock consultation rooms, surveillance-type video cameras record interaction between students and patients, to be critiqued in class. The Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library, which is open to the public, is 98 percent digital. Students are issued iTouch devices, which enable them to access the library’s 3.2 million holdings 24/7.

The school’s cutting-edge learning technologies will be on display at the grand opening celebration, a progressive dinner that will move throughout the building and provide opportunities to mingle with UCF and Orlando medical community leaders. (For details, see page 89.)

Attendees who are feeling cadaverous might want to track down Dr. Andrew Payer, the gregarious anatomy lab chief. He’ll enumerate the merits of body donation, which can also be found at www.med.ufl.edu/anatbd.

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