St. Dominic’s H.S. students get hands-on with hearts


Many medical students do not get the opportunity to study and dissect a heart until well into their schooling. But for the second year in a row, several classes at St. Dominic’s High School were given a rare opportunity to dissect pig hearts with two of the finest doctors in the the area.

On Monday, about 140 students took part in a hands-on lab taught by two cardiothoracic surgeons from St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington. Drs. Lawrence Durban and Albert DiMeo volunteered to spend their day teaching the students the anatomy of the heart, and the lessons were hands-on.

“I hope you know what an extraordinary opportunity this is today,” Principal Maureen Appel told the students. “This hands-on experience is beyond words. To have the opportunity to take a scalpel and actually dissect a heart that is very similar to a human heart is just mind-boggling.”

The students cut open the hearts to get a better look at their insides. The doctors explained the anatomy of the heart, pointing out its different parts and purposes. The students noted the texture and weight of the hearts, and to the dismay of many, its pungent smell.

Some students were even able to identify and remove blood clots from the heart they were examining.

Angelica Dahll, 17, said she planned to study medicine in the future. “I like this — it’s pretty cool,” she said. “Ever since I was a little kid I was fascinated by organs.”

Mary Deery, 17, who was recently accepted into nursing school, also found the class interesting.

“I hope that the students that are looking into possibly going into the medical field appreciate this hands-on experience, and are even more excited — especially the seniors,” said Kristina Argenzio, the school’s science chair.

Ashley Atkins, 15, and Marissa Capozzi, 14, said they had a pretty good idea of what they were doing with their pig heart. “Right now we’re cutting into the pulmonary artery,” said Atkins.

“Well, we’re pretty sure,” added Capozzi. Both said they might pursue a medical career in the future.

Parishioner and parent Paul Woodstock, a medical equipment consultant who has worked with both Durban and DiMeo, organized the program for the school. “To me it was all about education, and how we can inspire these young minds to think about science and medicine as they go further in their career,” Woodstock said. “Maybe somebody gets inspired to be a nurse, a nurse practitioner, or a physician, a biomedical engineer or potentially a heart surgeon.”

Durban and DiMeo said that the goal of the program was for students to learn something new and have a good time — or at least appreciate a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience shared with their friends.