Inside the Cadaver Lab Part 2: An Interview with Chad Howland, PT, DPT, CMPT


For the second installment in our Inside the Cadaver Lab series, we interviewed Chad Howland, PT, DPT, CMPT, a professor at Husson University’s School of Physical Therapy. He told us all about the anatomy lab course he teaches. Read on to find out how students prepare for their first session in the cadaver lab, why it’s important for anatomy students to study real human cadavers, and how 3D technology is a useful study tool in lab courses.

How do you prepare students for their first session of working with cadavers in the lab?

We will typically bring the students into the lab on the day of orientation. This would entail a tour of the lab, review of safety policies and procedures, and show them one cadaver specimen. We do not mandate that the student view the cadaveric specimen up close, as some are not comfortable initially. We have the students ask questions. The time is limited to about 15 minutes in the lab on the orientation day. 

Furthermore, we have students review a PowerPoint presentation about proper lab safety, material handling, and cleaning of the lab. Students are required to pass a quiz on the material before entering the lab on the first day. On the first formal day of lab, we provide instruction about basic dissection techniques and demonstrate a cadaveric dissection.

What can students expect when entering the cadaver lab for the first time? What often surprises them?

Students are oftentimes taken aback by the cool temperature of the lab and the smell. There is obviously a distinct odor in the lab due to the preserving chemicals. Students are normally a bit apprehensive at first, but are usually surprised by how quickly they acclimate to the lab environment. Students are more often excited about the course after the first day of lab.

Why is it important for students to dissect real human specimens?

The research in anatomy education supports the use of cadaveric dissection. It is an effective learning experience and something the students will always remember and appreciate. Students learn about the concept of "the first patient"—the tradition of preserving and handling human cadaveric specimens with respect, dignity, and thoughtful care. Students also learn to take care of their laboratory environment. The generic professional abilities are introduced and practiced in this setting.

How do Visible Body’s 3D anatomy resources (Courseware, Human Anatomy Atlas, Muscle Premium) supplement what your students are learning in the lab?

We use the Courseware and Human Anatomy Lab as a pre-lab exercise before entering the cadaveric lab. It is great for students to see the 3D model and do a virtual dissection. Students can review the muscle attachments, actions, and neurovascular supply ahead of lab. We've incorporated muscle charts for students to review alongside the 3D model. The audio-video content is a great addition...and something we are looking forward to using in our course. We've been able to integrate links to the Courseware assignments within our Canvas platform.


A big thank you to Prof. Howland for telling us about his lab course! For more information about how professors are using Visible Body's 3D models in their labs, check out this webcast.

Curious about Courseware? Check out the video below.

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If you're a student and want to augment your studying with 3D technology, check out our suite of apps here!