By MARINA WATERS
There’s a new addition to David Crockett High School and, since her arrival, she’s been the talk of health science teacher Cheri Wolfe’s classroom. Her name is Myra, but she’s not an actual person — she’s a synthetic cadaver with some rather lifelike attributes.
Crockett’s syndaver, Myra, is a replica of the human body, complete with a skeleton, organs and muscles all made from synthetic materials to simulate that of an actual person.
And now, she’s ready to help Crockett students learn all about the human body.
“It’s one of the best tools for postsecondary learning that you can have, and we have it in a high school setting. It’s amazing,” Wolfe said. “We’re one of eight schools to have it and the first in Tennessee. So we’re very excited and we’re very blessed.”
Wolfe said the syndaver will offer a real-life setting for her students to learn about the human body through technology that few colleges and no other high school program in Tennessee currently offers.
“You can see the heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, uterus, all kinds of veins and arteries all the way down to the skeleton,” Wolfe said. “These all are things they learn from a book, of course, and there are videos as well, but nothing compares to getting the actual hands-on experience. This is one of the most lifelike tools. When we’re talking about the human body, you need to see it.”
Wolfe added the syndaver to her classroom through a state grant designed to provide equipment for career and technical education programs throughout Tennessee. After securing the $63,000 syndaver, a team from SynDaver Labs conducted training for students and teachers so that those handling the syndaver would be well equipped to properly care for the advanced medical technology.
“With the way it’s made, the skin is very sensitive and very fragile, very much like human skin,” Wolfe said. “It’s susceptible to different microbial growths so we have to be very careful about handling her. She’s in algaecide and chlorine and she gets a bath once a month and then we have to empty the tank.”
The syndaver is currently housed in a tank full of the necessary chemicals to maintain the synthetic body, but Wolfe is hoping to add a cadaver table in the future, which would make examining the syndaver much simpler.
“We’re asking for a grant to get a table because my students right now have to lift this 110 pound mannequin out. There are chemicals, so they have to gown up, so we’re asking for a cadaver table so that will help with moving her and transporting back and forth.”
Though the students aren’t working on a real human corpse as they would in medical school, Wolfe is hoping to educate students by giving them a look at what it’s like to examine a person — who had a name and everything.
“Just like in medical school, there’s a certain amount of dignity that comes with this work,” Wolfe said. “This was a human being. And though she’s not real, it gives that mindset and a real life learning experience that they need to be prepared for when they go into the medical field. You treat everyone with dignity and you know that person had a life. Although this is not the same and is simulated, it gives them that same type of respect opportunity.”
As for the students, Myra has been the topic of conversation and has surged excitement throughout Wolfe’s health science class.
“If you follow us on twitter, those kids are all over talking about it. They’re so excited and I love seeing it,” Wolfe said. “There’s something to be said about handling those organs and knowing the functions and knowing where they go as opposed to just seeing a picture of it and handling it.”