Dr. Stokes’ Class Explores Pig Dissection

By Sherzod Nimatullo ’18 and Maria Martchiuk ’18

After dissecting pig embryos and a whole uterus, Dr. Trevor Stokes’ anatomy students received valuable experience in dissection and learned how gruesome it can be.  

This type of experience can help those students who wish to pursue a career in anatomy.

Pigs have similar circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems to humans. They are also mammals, which means many of their organs are in the same location as they would be in a human, making it easy to compare to us.

Fetal pigs were used mainly because of their undeveloped bones and tissue. This makes it easier to cut into and dissect. Also, pigs are not a traditional pet to someone living in New York City, so students do not feel as emotionally attached to them.

First, the uteruses were left in a bag for a week to prepare the pigs for dissection. The bag contained the uteri and a liquid called formaldehyde. According to Student BMJ, “Formaldehyde turns a human being into a cadaver by changing the color, consistency, and texture of a human body through chemical fixing.”

After the fetal pigs were left in the bag, the liquid was drained and students were given the freedom to begin the dissection however they pleased. They figured it all out by themselves with no steps or instructions.

Dr. Stokes said, “ One thing I hate about dissection labs is when the teacher stands there and tells the student what to do. I wanted the students to discover and explore themselves. My goal is for them to explore and find out things on their own.”

Because of the freedom to approach the lab with no constraint, students did have some challenges. Students that didn’t want to do the lab had to do written work instead.

Korina Kemelmakher ‘18 said, “Dissecting the uterus was rewarding but also gross at times because the liquid inside the uterus would spray if you were not cautious.”

Some students just had to observe, for example certain Muslim students couldn’t touch the pigs because of their religious views and they just sat back and took notes.

However, it was a learning experience. Dissection is hands on, giving control to the students and helping them acquire better skills when using tools.

Dr. Stokes said, “ I was really impressed with how respective students were to the specimen and treated the specimens in a suitable fashion, I found it very heartening.”

Alexis Buckner ‘17 said, “I learned new skills such as how to make a rubric, and how many of the tools worked.  We learned about embryos and how they formed and the different stages they went through.”

It’s a lot better to be doing the lab instead of just reading about it in a book or watching a video of the dissection.


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