Skip to Content
Faculty and Staff Resources

Appreciation for Gross Anatomy Helps Fund Renovation

A prominently displayed photograph of Charles Bardeen, MD, first dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), shows him standing in an anatomy class in Science Hall in 1914.


Professor Emeritus John Harting (second from left) shared his skills and knowledge with students in the neuroanatomy / neuroscience course, which he directed for nearly 35 years. Second-year medical students pictured are Michael Kessler (left), Allison Grace (back right) and Lynsey Watry (foreground right).With organs in large glass jars and limbs on his podium illustrating muscles, ligaments and nerves, he taught his students, who were seated at long tables before him, about important anatomical structures. Gross anatomy was a fundamental course for future physicians even before the medical school was officially created in 1925.


Roland Liebenow, MD ’48, also taught anatomy classes in Science Hall. During his first year of medical school in 1944, school staff asked if he would take a year off from his studies to be a teaching assistant for anatomy professors Drs. Walter Sullivan, Otto Mortensen and Harland Mossman the following year. As enticements, he received $100 a month and a chimpanzee cadaver on which to practice.


“This was my first teaching experience, and I found it delightful because the medical students were so motivated to learn,” Liebenow notes.


After lectures in the Science Hall auditorium, students took the manned elevator to dissection rooms several floors up, to work on their cadavers, which typically came from “poor farms,” where destitute men of the time lived and died.


“Science Hall was cold in the winter and warm in the summer,” Liebenow recalls.


The gross anatomy laboratories moved in 1957 from Science Hall to Bardeen Medical Laboratories, and again in 1981 to the present location, one floor down and around the corner in the Service Memorial Institute. Those buildings and the old UW Hospital make up today’s Medical Sciences Center.


Now, 30 years and countless anatomy lessons later, the laboratories have been completely renovated.


“Everything - except the cadaver tanks - needed to be replaced or upgraded,” says Karen Peterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association (WMAA). “Alumni played a key role in funding the do-over. Donors outside of the alumni group were generous as well.”


Open House Honors Donors


Beloved by many, Professor Emeritus Edward Bersu greeted visitors at the October 2012 opening of the renovated anatomy laboratories, which offer an advanced air handling system and high-quality overhead lighting.Several years ago, plans called for building an entirely new gross anatomy laboratory for the health sciences schools, but the price tag for taking on such an ambitious project from scratch made that plan prohibitive. Instead, modernizing and re-engineering the existing laboratories became the new goal.


To date, more than 140 people have contributed approximately $225,000. To recognize those donors and officially open the new laboratories, the School of Medicine and Public Health held an open house on October 26, 2012, during Homecoming Weekend. Visitors quickly noticed the labs’ clean lines and brightness, with large operating room-style lights over each tank and new white flooring throughout the three rooms.


New sinks and student lockers line the walls. The formaldehyde odor, which was pervasive in the old laboratories, is barely noticeable in the new rooms, thanks to an upgraded ventilation system.


“The air handling is much quieter now, and that also makes the space much better acoustically,” says Karen Krabbenhoft, PhD, who has taught gross anatomy at the School of Medicine and Public Health since 1992.


Krabbenhoft co-directs the anatomy course for medical students along with Lonie Salkowski, MD, professor of radiology.


“Anatomy has been, and continues to be, a much-loved, essential component of the curricula for students in health professions training programs,” says Elizabeth Petty, MD ’86, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.


“Intense bonds often form among students and faculty as they work together to learn about the relationships of structures and organs important in the diagnosis and management of health conditions. When taught with the compassion that our anatomy educators provide, it creates a foundational grounding in humanism and professionalism that stays with students throughout their lives,” says Petty, noting that the program has evolved in recent years.


Planners have organized the course so that relevant clinical scenarios accompany all dissections.


“We have increased integration with basic and clinical disciplines to enhance understanding, and we have incorporated use of innovative technology to augment learning,” says Petty. “We will continue to embrace educational innovations, when appropriate, to make anatomy education as timely and relevant as possible.


"We are quite fortunate that we also have newly remodeled laboratory space that will allow us to keep core hands-on dissection learning experiences as a vital part of our anatomy teaching.”


Alumni Give Back


As for funding of the lab renovations, the Classes of 1955 and ’67 took up the cause in earnest. With the help of a lead gift from Edward Kinsfogel, MD '67, 14 members of the class have contributed.


Kinsfogel decided after the class’ 40-year reunion that he wanted to make a significant gift to the school. The timing of his decision coincided with the beginning of the fundraising campaign for the anatomy laboratories’ renovations, so he took up the charge and encouraged his classmates to follow suit.


A retired diagnostic radiologist who practiced in Milwaukee, Kinsfogel says he has many fond memories about gross anatomy and other basic science classes at the school.


“I see my medical school experience as a very important time in my life,” he says. “My wife, Lois, and I feel it’s important to give back in recognition of the things that have been given to us.”


All contributors to the project are being permanently honored by having their names included on a special engravedglass “Donor Wall,” located near the entrance to the anatomy laboratories.


By Dian Land

This article appears in the winter 2013 issue of Quarterly.

Date Published: 03/12/2013

News tag(s):  quarterlyeducationalumnimd programqarchivedfeatures

News RSS Feed

Appreciation for Gross Anatomy Helps Fund Renovation

Last updated: 07/26/2013
Website Feedback
Copyright © 2017 University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Use of this site signifies your agreement to the terms and conditions