Why I Decided to View a Dissection

A message from Erin O'Loughlin, honorary HAPSter since she was 3 years old.
A message from Erin O’Loughlin, honorary HAPSter since she was 3 years old.

My name is Erin O’Loughlin, and despite the fact that I am not a HAPS member, I have been attending its conferences since I was three years old. As the daughter of a former HAPS president, I have been granted many incredible opportunities in the realm of science, including the chance to view and assist in the dissection of a cadaver. I hope to interest and enlighten readers by presenting information about the experience through the eyes of a student.

When daydreaming about their summers, most high school students envision themselves lying on the beach, dancing at a concert, or sleeping under the stars; not so much standing over a cadaver. But instead of swimming at the pool or barbecuing, I spent more than 30 hours observing and assisting in a dissection during my vacation. The cold, pungent environment of a lab is no substitute for a warm summer day; however, the experience was well worth my time.

Erin with her mama, HAPS President Emeritus Valerie Dean-O'Loughlin, at her first HAPS Annual Conference in Maui.
Erin with her mama (HAPS President Emeritus Valerie Dean-O’Loughlin) at her first HAPS Annual Conference in Maui.

In a word, my summer break was unusual, and many people were curious as to why I decided to spend it with a cadaver. My reasoning is as follows: Although coming face to face with a deceased human being is an intimidating task, I could not pass up the incredible opportunity to expand my knowledge of anatomy and better understand my own body and its functions at such a young age.

For most of my life, I was unaware of many of the anatomic complexities supporting my existence every second of every day of every year. Being able to visualize and understand the human body is an incredible gift and I encourage any student who is presented with the opportunity to view or partake in a dissection to take full advantage of it.

And to those who spend a lifetime in the presence of cadavers, offering high school students more opportunities to view a human body is a fantastic way to encourage a respect for anatomy and educate a number of individuals who will undoubtedly benefit from the knowledge.

I would also like to thank two incredible HAPS members, Keely Cassidy and Barbie Klein, for their patience, expertise, and generosity in allowing me to observe and assist in their dissections.

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