Ernest Talarico, Ph.D., founder of the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program, takes an innovative and unique approach to anatomy education

On Thursday, Oct. 21, Ernest Talarico, Ph.D., an IU School of Medicine–Northwest (IUSM-NW) faculty member and founder of the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program, was inducted into The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, as one of six local professionals who embrace the spirit of innovation. Talarico is the assistant director of medical education and course director for human gross anatomy and embryology at IUSM-NW, located on the Indiana University Northwest campus.

Each recipient inducted as a Society Fellow must demonstrate innovation to the community, region, and world.

Talarico’s innovative approach to human gross anatomy education is truly what captured the attention of The Society of Innovators. His annual summer program, the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program, as well as his human gross anatomy classes at IUSM-NW, emphasizes the dignity and humanity of the body donors who become his student doctors’ first patients.

“I am very humbled and honored to be recognized by The Society of Innovators,” Talarico said. “I am proud to stand alongside five other Northwest Indiana leaders and pioneers.

“Anatomical donors are necessary to educate student doctors,” Talarico added. “At the IU School of Medicine–Northwest, I teach my students to have the utmost respect for the donors. It is our responsibility to recognize and remember that each donor had families, friends, and lives – and chose to give back to medical education and to the greater community even after their death.”

As part of the “Talarico Protocol for Human Gross Anatomy”, medical students are given the opportunity to correspond with, and sometimes even meet the families of the donors they work with during their first-year anatomy class. It’s an experience, Talarico said, that can have a fundamental impact on their future interactions with patients.

“The relationship and bond that is developed between the medical students and the donors’ families is truly unique,” Talarico said. “To the best of my knowledge, this approach to medical education is not practiced at any other schools in the nation.

“I firmly believe the relationships formed between students and donor families are invaluable to the medical students’ education; the donor becomes their first patient,” he continued.  “But just as important, this process helps the families of the donors with the grieving process of their loved ones. I’ve been told by families that it as if their loved one is still a part of their daily life.”

As of late, the “Talarico Protocol for Human Gross Anatomy” has received local, national and international recognition. In September, National Associated Press (AP) Health Reporter Lindsey Tanner and AP Videographer Martha Irvine reported on second-year medical student Lucas Buchler’s close relationship with the family of anatomical donor Dorothy ‘Dot’ Purcell, whose family hails from Munster, Ind.

The article and video essay recalled Dot’s life and generous spirit, and depicted the positive impact that her decision to donate her body to medical education has had on her family, on student physician Buchler, and on the unique gross anatomy program created by Talarico.

As a prelude to the human gross anatomy class taught at the IUSM-NW, Talarico’s International Human Cadaver Prosection Program takes place each summer at the medical school located on the campus of Indiana University Northwest.

During the summer program, prosection volunteers work alongside medical students and faculty, practicing physicians and other professionals to ready the body donors for the following semester’s gross anatomy classes. The physical process of prosection includes the removal of donors’ skin and body fat to expose organs, muscles and other anatomical structures.

Today, the Prosection Program has grown into an international program bringing medical and non-medical professionals from around the world. Prosection volunteers gain detailed knowledge of human anatomy, radiology and orthopedics, as well as participate in a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving in honor and recognition of the donors.

Talarico was nominated as a Fellow to The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana by Michael Purcell (son of donor Dorothy ‘Dot’ Purcell); Ronn Wade (Director of the Anatomical Services Division, University of Maryland School of Medicine); Lt. Col. Alex Murphy (son of donor Fern Jones Murphy); Brian G. Kennedy, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, IUSM-NW); Loyola Garcia-Atance (3rd-year medical student and 2010 prosector, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid); Brian Spatola (Curator of Anthropology, National Museum of Medicine/Armed Forces Institute of Pathology); Barbara Mania-Farnell, Ph.D. (Professor of Neuroscience, Purdue University Calumet); Luis O. Marquez (Director of Imaging Services, Methodist Hospitals); Christopher Sheid (Director of the Office of Marketing and Communications; IU Northwest); and Pat Bankston, Ph.D. (Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, IU Northwest and Assistant Dean and Director, IUSM-NW).

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid have contacted Talarico on ways to adopt and teach the “Talarico Protocol for Human Gross Anatomy” in their medical school.

Talarico joins two other IUSM-NW faculty members who have also been inducted as Society Fellows. Panayotis G. Iatridis, M.D., DSc., former Assistant Dean and Director of the IUSM-NW, was recognized by the Society of Innovators in 2005. Iatridis is currently an IUSM-NW Emeritus Professor of Physiology, Biophysics, and Medicine.

Roman Dziarski, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the IUSM-NW, was also recognized by the Society in 2007. Dziarski’s recognition was a result of his leadership on a 10-year study that identified and examined three genes in the human genome that help the body fight disease.

The 2010 Fellows were selected by 19 judges representing community leaders from Northwest Indiana. Nominations opened in May and closed in July. The judges made their selections in mid-September at the Ivy Tech Campus in East Chicago.

The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana is sponsored by Ivy Tech Northwest with regional partners aimed at encouraging a culture of innovation.

The principal partners of the Society are ArcelorMittal; Bukva Imaging; Ivy Tech NW; Horseshoe Casino, Krieg DeVault; and The Times Media Company. The Center of Workforce Innovations is a community partner.

For more information on IUSM-NW, visit the Web at For more information on the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program, visit the web at

To view the referenced AP story, go to

For more information on The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, contact John Davies, Managing Director at (219) 981-1111, Ext. 2292, or (219) 462-6836.

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