By Wendy Sarubbi | December 10, 2012 3:50 pm

Anatomy Lab is a rite of passage for first-year medical students, the place where they learn the human body through the help of “silent teachers” – people who have willed their bodies to science. The 17-week lab helps students learn dissection skills and see actual organs, muscles and pathologies. Thanks to a generous donation from a group of Central Florida radiologists, M.D. students at the UCF College of Medicine get even more out of Anatomy Lab – a chance to study and use three-dimensional medical imaging.

Each year since the enrollment of the charter class in 2009, Dr. Rick Ramnath, a board-certified radiologist and his partners who co-own NeuroSkeletal Imaging (NSI) in Central Florida, have taken full-body CT scans of the cadavers and donated the images to the College of Medicine. CT scans allow students to get a detailed look inside the body before they start dissecting. They can see conditions such as clogged arteries in the heart, surgically implanted hips and knees and cancer tumors.

“We simply couldn’t afford to pay for full body scans of each cadaver,” explained Dr. Andrew Payer, professor of Anatomy who runs the lab. “To my knowledge, we are the only medical school in the country where every student has a full CT scan of their first patient.”

NSI has offices in Orlando, Melbourne and Merritt Island and does about 45,000 radiologic images a year. Dr. Ramnath’s team takes a full day to do complete CT scans of the cadavers and download detailed images on CDs for students to use in the Anatomy Lab. “Our team is so thankful to be part of teaching medical students,” he said. “Being part of something bigger than yourself and giving back to the community is a feeling you can’t beat.”

Dr. Ramnath graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School, where his Dean of Students was Dr. Deborah German, now UCF’s vice president of medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine. “Dr. German was an amazing dean who made every student feel like she was one of their best friends,” Dr. Ramnath said. “She made sure we got the most out of medical school. So when I heard she was coming to be dean of Orlando’s new medical school, I had to reach out and do my part to help.”

Describing radiology as “more than just X-rays,” Dr. Ramnath says the specialty is the most closely tied to the science of anatomy, because it allows the physician to understand the interconnectedness of the human body. As he walked through a recent Anatomy Lab session, Dr. Ramnath pointed out to students how the CT scans on their computer screens told a story of their first patient’s health and lifestyle. After Dr. Payer announced that the Anatomy Lab guest was the donor of the CT scans, first-year medical students applauded and cheered.

First-year medical student David Cantu said the scans help students see each cadaver’s unique form and pathology. “We are extremely grateful and privileged to have access to this technology so early in our medical training,” he said.  “This educational tool supplements our learning and prepares us for when we utilize CT scans of our future patients for diagnostic purposes.”

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