Luther junior Erik Mortens selected for International Human Cadaver Prosection Program

June 30, 2009

GARY, Ind.--Erik Mortens, a Luther College junior from Johnston, Iowa, was recently named a member of the volunteer prosection team in the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest (IUSM-NW).

Mortens was one of 41 team members selected from the more than 100 applicants who included medical students, undergraduates, doctors, military officers and educators. Mortens and other IHCPP team members will gather at the Indiana University-Northwest campus Aug. 5-6 for a two-day, hands-on anatomy workshop in which they will prepare six anatomical donors for the medical school's upcoming gross anatomy classes.

This is Morten's second year to be selected as an IHCPP participant. In 2008, Mortens received the award for best overall participant in the IHCPP program.

The program brings a mix of students and professionals from across the United States and Canada to the Indiana University-Northwest campus. While a majority of the participants are students, 10 are professionals whose work relates to the medical field.

Fourteen colleges and universities are represented among this year's participants, including Luther College, the University of British Columbia, the University of Massachusetts, Purdue University-Calumet and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

In addition to local medical practitioners and medical students, this year's program will host a lecturer from the biological sciences department at Purdue University-Calumet, two managers from the body donation program at the University of British Columbia and a forensic anthropologist from the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

"Our professional prosection volunteers bring a lot of medical knowledge and anatomical experience to this years program, and that will benefit our student volunteers," said program director Ernest Talarico, Jr., Ph.D., who is the assistant director of medical education and course director of human gross anatomy and embryology at IUSM-NW.

Mortens, a biology/pre-med student at Luther, said he is excited about the opportunity to return to work with the prosection team.

"Many physicians and medical school students are accepted into this program and often offer advice, exchange contact information and tell you about their past experiences, all just going out of their way to help you pursue your goals," said Mortens, who plans to pursue a career in medicine. "Everyone is willing to take a step back and teach those who might not be as advanced in the field, so it makes for a great learning environment and experience."

This is the 10th anniversary of the Human Cadaver Prosection Program at IUSM-NW. In 2008, Talarico and his prosectors, including Mortens, teamed with undergraduate radiography students at Indiana University-Northwest, on whose campus the medical school is located, to take full-body X-rays of the anatomical donors.

This year, Talarico and Robin Jones, Indiana University-Northwest clinical associate professor of radiography, will expand imaging efforts with the cooperation of Merrillville, Ind.-based Methodist Hospitals Imaging Services. Radiography students, with the assistance of prosectors, will take X-rays and do ultrasound scans of donors at the College of Health and Human Services X-ray lab, and they will transport the anatomical donors to the Methodist Hospitals Southlake for advanced CT and MRI imaging.

Students will observe as the hospitals technologists acquire the images, learning basic skills and interpretive techniques in the process.

"Last year's imaging gave us some very important information about our donors that proved useful to the work of both our prosectors and medical students, and I am confident that these additional procedures will yield even greater medical knowledge about each of this year's donors," said Talarico.

The IHCPP offers college students, healthcare workers and other professionals who have an interest in anatomy the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in gross anatomy while helping to prepare anatomical donors for anatomy classes at IUSM-NW.

Some prosectors may assist with the receipt and preparation of the donors when they are delivered to the medical school on Wednesday, July 15.

Participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion and certification for work with biohazards and blood-borne pathogens. Two top prosectors will receive awards, and two others will receive special recognition.

Erik Mortens (front left) poses with his dissection group in preparation for a memorial ceremony thanking the cadaver donors and their families.