Local 93-year-old rare medical exhibit post goes viral

Entire dissected human nervous system exhibit (KTVO)

If two medical students nearly 100 years ago could have imagined what the internet would be today...they would probably be excited to know millions of people are now fascinated with their exhibit on display in Kirksville.

And it's all thanks to a prospective student who wants to become a doctor himself.

“The nervous system is one of our museum's most prized possessions,” said Museum of Osteopathic Medicine Director Jason Haxton. “It's almost impossible to do this kind of a dissection where you remove the muscles, skin, bones, and leave the nerves intact. And it took these students, Michael Shalk and Leroy Ramsdell 1,500 hours, which would be about half a year for two students to do nothing but this.”

The entire human nervous system is meticulously dissected, labeled, and on display at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville.

“Students were required to do the length of an arm, and that in itself was pretty tedious,” Haxton said. “These student's arm was so impressive, with so much detail, that the faculty said, ‘What could you do with a whole body?’ So they took on the challenge."

Haxton says the monumental task is still puzzling people today.

“It is still a mystery how they did it. We know that they began at the top and as they dissected out the nerves, they rolled the nerves into little cotton batting, and then used some kind of preservative, we’re not even sure what the preservative was, but layer by layer, and so when they were done there was nothing but a mass of cotton balls, which they transferred to a board, spread back out, and then just shellacked it. And shellac is typically just sugar water, and so even those who know about preserving these kinds of things, it's a miracle that they didn't dry up,” Haxton explained.

Learning about the nervous system in textbooks is one thing for students, but to see it in person, is something else.

“The students do get to understand where the nerves are, and in osteopathy you have to know anatomy in order to know what is abnormal to take it back to normal, and so of course all parts of the body, particularly the nervous system is important,” Haxton said.

The entire dissected human nervous system at the local museum is only one of four ever done in the entire world.

“We had a conservator come and clean this and she valued it at a million dollars,” said Haxton.

Now, there's a new reason the nearly 100-year-old exhibit is getting so much attention.

An ATSU applicant snapped a picture when he was on campus for his application process.

He posted the picture on Reddit, a self-generating, content-sharing site, where it was the top post of the day, bringing Kirksville to the so-called ‘front page of the internet.’

“It basically went viral, millions of people got to view our little nervous system here in Kirksville, so we always enjoy the exposure that it gives to the school and the work that we've done past and present and today we're just as dedicated to research, technology, and the best doctors we can put out,” said Haxton.

The applicant who posted the picture of the exhibit is waiting to see if he’s been accepted to the medical school. Haxton told KTVO the decision making process for accepting applicants usually takes a couple weeks.

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