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Home > Issues Facing Teachers > Dissection > A Doctor's View of Dissection

A Doctor's View of Dissection

By Nancy Harrison, M.D.

Nancy Harrison, M.D.As a pathologist, I perform careful dissections every day—on human tissues, not on animals. It's my job to know the relationship between anatomy and physiology, between health and disease.

But it wasn't the frog or cat dissections we performed in public school that inspired me to study science. It was my excellent science teachers! The energy they poured into our classrooms, the academic heights they challenged us to reach, and their own bright intellects drew me into this field.

Decades later, I've come to regret those dissections and have since studied computerized alternatives that are extremely comprehensive. As a doctor who performs autopsies, I can assure students that computer images of well-preserved tissues look more like the "real thing" than the squishy gray organs of a formalin-fixed specimen. Simulated dissection is very realistic, the accompanying text is elegant, and the graphics are superb. Computerized alternatives are rapidly replacing animals in medical and veterinary colleges across the country. And the same is true at earlier levels of training. That means that younger students can easily learn biology by taking advantage of state-of-the-art methods that do not involve dissecting at all. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to science teachers everywhere who are creating a passion for humane scientific study. Tomorrow's great physicians and researchers depend on it.

Nancy L. Harrison, M.D.
Scripps Memorial Hospital Chula Vista
Department of Pathology

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