Professor spearheads creation of new museum at UT PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Tuesday, 17 December 2013 10:29
Dr. Carlos Baptista is seen in the Liberato Didio and Peter Goldblatt Interactive Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at The University of Toledo. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
For Dr. Carlos Baptista, a longtime dream has finally come true.
A professor at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, and a longtime Bowling Green resident, Baptista recently cut the ribbon on a new museum at the institution to showcase portions of the human body prepared for anatomical study.
That museum, The Liberato DiDio and Peter Golblatt Interactive Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, opened its doors at the medical college on Dec. 10.
"I'm realizing a 20-year-old dream of creating this museum," said Baptista, who has taught at UT for more than 30 years, at the opening. Baptista is an associate professor in the school's neuroscience department, and teaches gross anatomy - the study of human anatomy's larger elements - to medical and graduate students. He is also the course director for the scientific and clinical foundation for human organ donation and transplantation.
Originally from Brazil, where he earned his medical degree and Ph.D., Baptista was inspired by similar museums in his home country and abroad - facilities that were lacking in America.
"When I came to the states, I didn't see any museums (like this) here," he said.
At the opening, Baptista highlighted the importance of medical students learning not simply from books, but also from tactile observation of anatomy - exactly the kind of education that the facility hopes to foster.
The museum contains more than 300 specimens, ranging from human torsos, hands, hearts, and even fetuses to lungs, livers, and brains, and beyond. Many more specimens are available and there are plans to rotate the items on display. But what sets the museum's specimens apart is that they are not preserved in jars of formaldehyde or other chemicals. All have been prepared through the process of plastination - a process Baptista has been working with for nearly three decades.
In plastination, specimens are preserved with plastic materials. The fats and water insider of them are replaced by plastic polymers, making them long-lasting, durable, and ideal models for students to learn from. The process was pioneered by German physician Gunther Von Hagens in 1977.
The plastination process can be very involved. To preserve smaller organs through the method can take as long as three to four months, while the preservation of a full human cadaver can require an entire year. However, after the process is complete, the specimens themselves remain incredibly lifelike.
"You have to dissect, you have to remove the impurities, like formaldehyde, the chemicals," said Baptista of the process.
One of the most vital parts is the hardening of the specimen.
"You can put the specimen in any position you want," he said, enabling better viewing.
"It's the art. It think you look at it, and it's like cooking."
Baptista himself is a founding member of the International Society of Plastination and currently serves as its president. He is the director of UTMC's own plastination laboratory, which opened in 1987 and was, at first, quite small "like a closet," he said. It has since grown into a larger facility. His own plastination work has been publicly featured in sites including the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
All of the specimens in the museum come from donated cadavers, and were prepared on-site at the university. More than 30 students have had a hand in their creation over the years, he said. The museum, while not normally open to the general public, will offer tours by appointment.

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