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What Students Learn from Dissecting a Fetal Pig

Students at the Harris School learn important anatomy lessons during this exercise

Did you ever know that much of a pig’s anatomy is similar to human anatomy? This is one of the reasons that many science classrooms dissect fetal pigs. Students at the Harris School of Business recently participated in a dissection activity, and were able to witness first-hand the similarities between pig and human anatomy.

The dissection activity was part of the training for the Professional Medical Assistant Plus program at the Cherry Hill campus of the Harris School. Learning anatomy and physiology is one of the basic building blocks for becoming a medical assistant. Students found that the opportunity to dissect the fetal pig helped them to better visualize and understand the anatomical structures they had been learning in the classroom.

There are several reasons that schools use fetal pigs to instruct students in anatomy:

  • Pig anatomy and human anatomy are similar.
  • Dissection is a hands-on way of learning anatomy. For many learners, this type of learning is better than textbook learning.
  • Dissection allows students to see the body’s structures in three dimensions (unlike in a textbook) and how the organ systems are interconnected.
  • Dissecting more than one fetal pig demonstrates variations within the animal body. No two fetal pigs (or any animal) will look exactly alike, and this helps students understand natural variations, and recognize anatomy even if it does not look exactly like the textbook.
  • Fetal pigs are not bred for being dissected. They are the by-product of the pork industry and would be discarded if not used for dissection.

One of the human body organs that is very similar to a pig’s is the heart. A pig heart and a human heart are similar in their size, structure, and function. Like a human heart, the pig heart has two atriums and two ventricles. It also has four valves and an aorta. For this reason, pig hearts are sometimes used for dissection. In these activities, students are able to gain a greater understanding of the human heart through understanding a pig’s heart.

The Harris School of Business believes that hands-on learning is an effective way to train its students who are studying to be Professional Medical Assistants. Dissection is one of the many hands-on experiences that students at the Harris School of Business undergo as part of their training. Professional Medical Assistant students spend a good deal of time in the lab, where they practice injections, blood draws, vital signs, EKGs, and other procedures. The emphasis on hands-on learning is important to develop students’ confidence, accuracy, and efficiency in completing the skills they will need on the job.

To learn more about the career training programs at the Harris School, visit our programs page. Most of our programs are designed to be completed in less than one year’s time. Students get hands-on opportunities to learn, practice, and master the skills they will need in their new careers. Take a moment, and consider whether the Harris School may be a good choice for you.

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