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NOVA’s Medical Education Campus helps students learn human anatomy with life-like synthetic cadaver

Kathy Grilliot, MEC respiratory clinical coordinator examines the new SynDaver Anatomy Model.
MEC Lab Manager Don Johnson demonstrates the SynDaver Anatomy Model to faculty.

To kick off the fall semester, the anatomy lab at NOVA’s Medical Education Campus (MEC) welcomed a new addition to assist students interested in health-related programs - a synthetic human cadaver, also referred to as a SynDaver, named after the company who produces the most realistic synthetic representation of human anatomy.

Since its start in 2003, the MEC’s anatomy lab has used a fully-preserved human cadaver, with its tissues and organs intact, which is fully dissected by MEC faculty, as an invaluable teaching tool during lab sessions. Now, the new SynDaver Anatomy Model will serve as an alternative to enhance an interactive learning experience for students. The SynDaver Anatomy Model is an education-grade synthetic human cadaver complete with bones, joints, muscles, organs and tendons found in normal human anatomy. The Anatomy Model includes over 50 structural and anatomical features; including 17venous vasculature veins, 17 arterial vasculaturearteries and 19 nervous system components. The skeletal system is made from polymer composite with integral fascia sheath.

The SynDaver Labs’ models contain synthetic human tissue that has been developed over the last two decades to mimic the physical properties of live tissue found in the human body. According to SynDaver Labs, with proper maintenance and care, the synthetic cadaver can virtually last forever. The purchase of the SynDaver Anatomy Model was spearheaded by MEC Lab Manager Don Johnson after he invited representatives from SynDaver Labs in April to demonstrate the synthetic cadaver to NOVA’s anatomy and physiology faculty. Collectively, faculty from each of NOVA’s six campuses felt the synthetic cadaver would be a useful tool to ensure NOVA’s Nursing and Allied Health graduates maintain the competitive edge as they enter the local workforce.

“With general dissection of human cadavers, it can be somewhat difficult to view the definition of veins, arteries and muscular structures for instructional purposes. The SynDaver Anatomy Model will not replace our actual human cadaver, but it will serve as a supplement for instructing our students enrolled in anatomy, physiology, nursing and allied health programs,” said Johnson. “Starting now, during the fall semester, students can participate in lab work with our new synthetic cadaver.”  

SynDaver Labs’ products have appeared on television episodes of ABC's Shark Tank and Grey's Anatomy, Discovery Channel's MythBusters, CBS’s Sunday Morning and CSI, NBC's Crossbones and Daytime TV, A&E’s Shipping Wars as well as many news and educational programs. SynDaver Labs has also appeared in Forbes Magazine, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Popular Science, Science Magazine, Inc. Magazine, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, Today's Medical Developments, Surgical Products Magazine, Medical Product Manufacturing News, Medical Device Technology and EMS World Magazine.

NOVA is one of only three community colleges in the Commonwealth of Virginia that offers its Nursing and Allied Health students the opportunity to learn on an actual human cadaver. Within the last year, Johnson said approximately 3,000 students from NOVA and local high schools visited the anatomy lab for presentations or clinical instruction. In 2016, the College provided another opportunity to learn about anatomy and physiology through use of an Anatomage Table, a high-quality and interactive 3D visualization system for students in NOVA’s healthcare-related programs.

For instruction scheduling, presentations and additional information about the Medical Education Campus Anatomy Lab Center, visit their website

Media Contact: Kristina Ogburn | 703.503.6338 | kogburn@nvcc.edu

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.