Meet the Director of the OUWB Anatomy Lab and Medical Student “First Patients”

Students at Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine always remember their “first patient” and since the school’s launch, Dan Schlegel has played a key role in those relationships.

The reason?

Schlegel has worked at the OUWB Anatomy Lab since its start in 2011.

He is responsible for taking care of the laboratory and the donors – in this context, this mainly means people who have made the decision before death to donate their respective bodies to science so that medical students can study and really understand the structures of the human body.

It’s a unique piece of work that Schlegel says usually elicits one of two reactions.

“People are either super interested and ask a lot of questions,” he says with a smile. “Or they slowly back away.”

Either way, Schlegel says he never forgets what the job is really about.

“For me, it’s about working with students and faculty to help train future doctors,” he says.

Those who work most closely with Schlegel say his commitment to the role is evident.

“Dan is doing an exceptional job,” says Malli Barremkala, Associate Professor, Department of Basic Medical Studies and Director of OUWB’s Body Donation Program.

“Over the years he has been instrumental in supporting the anatomy programs at OUWB, and we affectionately refer to him as ‘Dan the Man’.”

“I was a little hesitant”

In his managerial role, Schlegel works directly with OUWB faculty to ensure students have what they need when it comes to studying anatomy in the lab. Additionally, it supports Oakland University’s physical therapy programs, which also use the lab.

His responsibilities include not only moving and preparing donors, but also ensuring that students have all the equipment they need, that all space is serviced and maintained to the highest standards of cleanliness, and that all the rules are respected. For example, students are prohibited from taking photos in the lab.

Schlegel says his daily work in the lab is guided by two principles: the important role donors play in helping students learn and the need to maintain respect.

An image of Dan Schlegel speaking to students
Schlegel talks about anatomy lab rules to the OUWB Class of 2026 during orientation in August.

“Donors basically give themselves before death…they give their all to educate students,” he says. “We respect donors as patients… just because they can’t hear or respond to you doesn’t mean we treat them any less.”

Of course, the big question is: how does one become responsible for an anatomy laboratory in a medical school?

For Schlegel, it started when he was an undergraduate at Oakland University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health sciences.

Meanwhile, in the mid-2000s, Schlegel had his first experience with donors. This was different from the experience medical students have because the anatomical specimens were analyzed (already dissected by more experienced anatomists).

Still, the experience helped him feel comfortable working with body donors. The fact that he was always “scientific” helped further.

“As a student, I was a little hesitant the first time they pulled the donors out of that first lab class…but I was never really disgusted,” he says. “I was more interested in learning how things worked.”

Soon Schlegel was helping others learn how things work as a teaching assistant for Mary Bee, Ph.D., assistant adjunct associate professor, School of Health Sciences.

When presented with the opportunity to join OUWB in 2011, he jumped at the chance.

It took a month before OUWB welcomed its founding class of 50 students.

“They are even more comfortable”

For the first two classes, the OUWB anatomy lab was located in the basement of the Mathematics and Science Center at Oakland University. Schlegel said the situation wasn’t ideal because the space had no windows, the loading dock was across the hall, ventilation was poor, and other issues existed.

One of the biggest, he said, was that donors had to be moved every time there was a class.

That all changed in 2013, when the lab moved to the third floor of Oakland University’s Hannah Hall following a complete remodel of the space that now houses the anatomy lab.

The restricted laboratory now includes 37 tables specially intended for donors, each equipped with a special ventilation system and a computer. The size and layout of the lab allows students to move freely and not feel crammed into a tiny space. Windows line the walls, creating a bright atmosphere.

Schlegel says his favorite part of the job is seeing the evolution of students in how they approach donors.

“At the start of the semester, some students may be pretty (reluctant), but by the end of the semester, they’re totally immersed,” he says. “Then they come back for the second half and they’re even more comfortable.”

Having a UO alumnus running the lab is beneficial, Barremkala says.

“He knows the UO campus and facilities and uses them effectively for a well-functioning lab,” he says.

Schlegel also goes above and beyond to help keep students on track.

“Dan was one of the very few employees who worked in person throughout the pandemic and was key in delivering the laboratory component of the AFCP (Anatomical Foundations of Clinical Practice) course,” says Barremkala.

Looking ahead, Schlegel says he’s delighted that the OUWB has recently launched its own body donor program. So far, OUWB has worked with other institutions like the University of Toledo to obtain bodies from donors, which are then returned to the school at the end of the year for proper cremation and return to life. family.

“We will have more control over the embalming process, donor selection criteria and direct contact with families, which will make it a bit easier to obtain the necessary medical records,” he says. “It’s really exciting.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, Marketing Writer, OUWB, at

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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