MEC Professor Provides Hands-on Learning in Cadaver Lab

MEC Professor Provides Hands-on Learning in Cadaver Lab

MEC Professor Provides Hands-on Learning in Cadaver Lab
Dr. Byron Massie teaches anatomy, among other classes, at the Medical Education Campus.
Photo by Ray Evans

In the state-of-the-art cadaver lab at the Medical Education Campus (MEC), Professor Byron Massie can sometimes be found passing around a human heart to students – providing a demonstration that simply cannot be learned from just sitting in a classroom.

“From the cadaver, I take out the body parts such as the heart and say, ‘This is a normal heart. It’s about the size of your fist,’” Massie explained. “I’ll go, ‘Have a heart,’ as I pass it around the room. It’s kind of traumatic for them but it’s also engaging them. What they’re seeing there and experiencing they can’t find in a textbook. It’s a learning experience they have to have because what we see in the textbook is not always how it appears in the body.”

NOVA is one of only three community colleges in Virginia that has a cadaver lab. This is an experience that nursing students, even those in four-year programs, often do not receive.

Massie’s cadaver lab demonstration is one of many facets of the MEC that allow students to combine their classroom lectures with hands-on experience on campus. With simulation labs with life-like mannequins and a fully-functioning dental hygiene clinic, students are constantly bustling through the hallways.

Massie, who has taught at the MEC for 10 years and has been on the NOVA faculty for more than 40 years, has a passion for teaching which ignited when he was a graduate teaching assistant at Virginia Tech and while doing his doctoral work at The Ohio State University. He cannot see himself doing anything else other than preparing the next generation of medical experts. Over the years, his former students have gone on to become doctors, dentists, EMTs and nurses.

Massie explained that he has noticed technology’s impact on the classroom, and his efficient use of the MEC’s cadaver lab is one of many ways he engages students and properly prepares them for the medical field. Along with using technology, Massie recognizes the need to make sure the MEC’s diverse student population is prepared for the health care field.

“Technology allows the faculty to reach students where just a lecture doesn’t. We also have a diverse population and with that, we have over 170 countries represented,” Massie said. “So you can’t just teach it, but you also have to relate it to the medical field. The standards here at the MEC are high so we have a different type of responsibility to our students.”

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