Anatomy word of the month: cadaver

April 1, 2011 —

“To fall”, “to perish” in Latin. Many terms are used for a dead body some more irreverent than others: the decedent, a corpse, a stiff, a cadaver. But only the last word is exclusively used for a body that has been preserved for dissection. Although atlases, highly realistic models, and computer simulations have supplemented even supplanted some dissection, the detailed study of a cadaver is still essential. Dissection instructs students in the tremendous variation in human anatomy that one must know whether palpating a worrisome lump or performing surgery. Reflecting this is the Latin inscription found over the doors of many dissection labs: Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae. Translated: “This is the place where Death rejoices in helping Life”.

The Latin root in cadaver, cadere, is also found in the common words: decay, decadence and cadence. The last word defines the rhythmic footfalls of military marching, and in its Italian version, cadenza, the flourish that concludes or comes near the end of a piece of music.


Dr. Dyche was born in New Jersey and trained at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center before coming to Des Moines in 1976. Over 30 plus years he has taught gross anatomy, embryology and neuroanatomy. He also served in administration as associate dean for basic sciences, dean of the College of Health Sciences, and acting director of the PA program. He was one of the founding instructors of CPR and ACLS at a time when few medical schools offered this training. He retired to Oregon in 2008, then returned to DMU in 2009. Did he miss the tornadoes, the below zero wind chills or the cadavers?

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