Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students always remember their “first patient” and since the school’s launch, Dan Schlegel has played a key role in those relationships.
Schlegel has been working as OUWB’s Anatomy Lab since its inception in 2011.
He is responsible for looking after the laboratory and the donors – in this context that means primarily people who made the decision before their death to donate their respective bodies to science so that medical students can see structures in the human body. study and really understand.
It’s a unique job that, according to Schlegel, generally elicits one of two responses.
“People are either super interested and ask a lot of questions,” he says with a smile. “Or they just slowly deteriorate.”
Either way, Schlegel says he never forgets what the job is really about.
“For me, it’s all about working with the students and teachers to build future doctors,” he says.
Those closest to Schlegel say his dedication to the role is apparent.
“Dan does an exceptional job,” said Malli Barremkala, associate professor, Department of Fundamental Medical Studies and director of the OUWB’s Body Donation Program.
“Over the years, he has been instrumental in supporting the OUWB’s anatomy programs, and we affectionately refer to him as ‘Dan de Man’.”
‘I was a bit hesitant’
In his leadership role, Schlegel works directly with the OUWB faculty to ensure students get what they need when it comes to studying anatomy in the lab. In addition, he supports Oakland University physical therapy programs, which also use the lab.
His responsibilities include not only moving and preparing donors, but also ensuring that students have all the equipment they need, that the entire space is maintained and kept to the highest standards of cleanliness, and that all rules are followed . For example, students are prohibited from taking pictures in the lab.
Schlegel says his day-to-day work in the lab is guided by two principles: the important role donors play in helping students learn, and the need to maintain respect.
|During the orientation in August, Schlegel tells about the rules of the anatomy lab to the OUWB class of 2026.|
“Donors are essentially donating themselves to death… they give everything they are to educate students,” he says. “We respect donors as patients… just because they can’t hear you or respond to you doesn’t mean we treat them any less.”
The big question, of course, is how do you become a medical school anatomy lab manager?
For Schlegel, it started when he was an undergrad at Oakland University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health sciences.
At that time, in the mid-2000s, Schlegel had his first experience with donors. It was different from the experience that medical students have because the anatomical preparations were edited (already dissected by more experienced anatomists).
Still, the experience helped him build his comfort level when working with body donors. The fact that he has always been “science oriented” helped further.
“As a student, I was a little hesitant the first time they pulled the donors back in those first lab classes… but I was never really squeamish,” he says. “I was more interested in how things worked.”
Soon, Schlegel was helping others learn how things work as a teaching assistant for Mary Bee, Ph.D., associate adjunct associate professor, School of Health Sciences.
When he was given the opportunity to join the OUWB in 2011, he seized the opportunity.
It took a month for the OUWB to welcome its charter class of 50 students.
‘They are even more comfortable’
For the first two classes, the OUWB’s anatomy lab was in the basement of Oakland University’s Mathematics and Science Center. Schlegel said the situation was not ideal because the space had no windows, the loading dock was on the other side of the hall, there was insufficient ventilation and other problems.
One of the biggest, he said, was that the donors had to be moved every time there was a class.
That all changed in 2013, when the lab was moved to the third floor of Oakland University’s Hannah Hall after a complete renovation of the space that now houses the anatomy lab.
The private lab now has 37 tables especially for donors, each equipped with a special ventilation system and a computer. The lab’s size and layout allow students to move freely and not feel crammed into a small space. Windows along the walls create a bright atmosphere.
Schlegel says his favorite part of the job is the evolution of students in how they approach donors.
“At the beginning of the semester, some students may be handsome (hesitant), but by the end of the semester, they’re totally immersed,” he says. “Then they come back for the second semester and they are even more comfortable.”
Having an OU alumnus run the lab is beneficial, says Barremkala.
“He has knowledge of the OU campus and facilities and uses this effectively for a well-functioning lab,” he says.
Schlegel also does his best to keep students on track.
“Dan was one of the few contributors to have personally worked during the pandemic and played a key role in delivering the lab component of the Anatomical Foundations of Clinical Practice (AFCP) course,” Barremkala says.
Looking ahead, Schlegel says he is pleased that OUWB has recently launched its own body donation program. So far, the OUWB has worked with other institutions such as the University of Toledo to obtain donor bodies, which are returned to the school at the end of the year for proper cremation and return to the family.
“We will have more control over the embalming process, the donor selection criteria and the direct contact with the families, which will make it a little easier to get the necessary medical records,” he says. “It’s really exciting.”
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