Dental students’ selfie with severed cadaver heads prompts crackdown at Yale
Yale University today vowed to ensure that donated cadavers are treated with respect in its laboratories after a dental graduate student from the University of Connecticut took a selfie with two severed heads during a workshop at the Ivy League school and posted it in an online private chat room.
"The photograph taken at a symposium at Yale was disturbing and an inexcusable deviation from anything Yale would expect to occur," Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for the New Haven, Connecticut, school, told ABC News in a statement today.
Among changes the school is implementing is a requirement that people participating in events in its medical laboratories sign an ethical standard of conduct agreement, Peart said.
The incident occurred in June at the Yale School of Medicine. Graduate dental school students from the University of Connecticut and their orthodontics professor were attending a symposium at the school when one of the students snapped a selfie while the professor was using two cadaver heads to demonstrate how to place in dental screws, officials said.
"There is clear signage forbidding photography at each door to the laboratory," Peart said.
The professor, Dr. Flavio Uribe, the orthodontics program director at UConn Health, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. The student who took the snapshot caught him off guard, Uribe told The Associated Press Monday.
"Somebody, unfortunately, took a photo," Uribe said. "It was so quick. I wasn't sure of the surroundings or scenery at that point."
The selfie was later posted on a private online chat group. The AP recently obtained a copy of the photo from one of the participants of the chat group. Describing the image, the newswire service reported that it shows several graduate students wearing surgical masks and staring into the camera, while others continued to work.
“UConn Health was made aware of the matter at the time it happened and took appropriate internal steps,” Chris Hayers, UConn Health's chief communications officer, said in a statement but did not elaborate.
A spokeswoman for UConn Health declined today to comment further on the incident.
Dr. Uribe was not disciplined by UConn for the episode, he told the AP.
"The School of Medicine took this issue very seriously and has undertaken steps to ensure that this type of occurrence could not happen again at Yale," Yale’s Peart said in her statement, adding that the symposium was not part of Yale's anatomy program.
Yale is developing a centralized coordinating function "to ensure adequate oversight is provided for use of anatomical parts in any training conducted at the school,” she added.
"It is expected that any faculty member coordinating a training event and all participants will be required to agree in writing to ethical standards of conduct so that appropriate respect is afforded to the individuals who donated their bodies to science," Peart said.
"The faculty member who was involved in the training at which the photograph was taken has been informed of Yale’s expectations in this regard."