MCC-Penn Valley instructors are superhuman volunteers

Metropolitan Community College biology instructors by day, superhuman experts by night? In a manner of speaking, yes.

Two MCC-Penn Valley instructors have donated hundreds of hours to assist with the “Body Worlds” exhibit at Kansas City’s Union Station. It continues through Oct. 23.

MCC’s Steven Lewis and Gene Cota have each completed more than 100 hours of volunteer service as “inside guides” since the exhibit opened.

Steven Lewis started as an adjunct at MCC-Maple Woods in 1986. He’s been full time at Penn Valley since 1993. Some of his thoughts on volunteering at the exhibit:

MCC-Penn Valley instructor Steven Lewis
  • “I enjoy working the exhibit because most of the visitors are there because they want to learn. They love to ask questions about the exhibit. Some will track me down in another room to ask a question about something they viewed later. It’s also a form of professional development for me. Things I’ve observed in the exhibit and questions from visitors often have inspired me to do further research.”
  • “I’ve seen many former students at the exhibit, including one from 30 years ago. She actually recognized me!”
  • “One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Do you travel with the exhibit?” I reply, “Not while I’m alive.”
  • “Another common question is, “Are you a doctor?” I tell them “No, I just play one here.” I tell them I teach biology at the Penn Valley campus of the Metropolitan Community College.”

Gene Cota taught anatomy, physiology and microbiology at MCC-Penn Valley starting in 1985. He retired in January 2013 but continues to teach anatomy. Thoughts on “Body Worlds”:

MCC-Penn Valley instructor Gene Cota
  • “It’s fun to help people understand human anatomy & physiology with such spectacular displays. The Body Worlds exhibit has some elaborate dissections artistically displayed. Some are somewhat confusing to those without anatomical backgrounds. Frequently we’ll get questions from people about specific ailments and organs/glands relevant to their own medical history. After spending so much time at the exhibit, we can quickly zero-in on the best examples to satisfy their curiosity.”
  • “Probably the most surprising question I’ve received was, “Are you Gunther Von Hagens?” Gunther is the 71 year-old inventor of the plastination process.”

Cota and Lewis also volunteered as guides in the “Bodies Revealed” exhibit at Union Station in 2008.

Union Station is offering  MCC employees and students a discount to the Body Worlds exhibition.  Click here for details.

Exhibit hours at Union Station:

  • Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Sunday: Noon-5 p.m.

More about “Body Worlds”:

“Body Worlds” is the first exhibition of its kind to inform the visitor about anatomy, physiology and health by viewing real human bodies preserved through Plastination, the preservation process invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977. Since the beginning of the exhibition series in Japan in 1995, more than 40 million people in more than 100 cities in Asia, Europe, America and Africa have visited the exhibit.

The Plastination process replaces the natural fluids in the specimen with liquid reactive plastics that are hardened and cured with gas, light, or heat. Before hardening the plastic in the specimens, the plastinates are fixed into extraordinary, lifelike poses, illustrating how our bodies internally respond to everyday movements and activities. Plastination provides the flexibility and strength needed to display and preserve the specimens in their true-to-life form, without the use of glass barriers or formaldehyde. Dr. von Hagens’ “Body Worlds” exhibitions stem from an established body donation program that relies on donor consent. The specimens on display, excluding a small number of acquisitions from anatomical collections and anatomy programs, stem from a body donation program that was begun in 1983 by Dr. von Hagens.