Trying to correct what the university called a lapse in judgment, the Stony Brook University Medical Center asked a resident physician Friday to remove from her Facebook page a photograph of a former classmate giving two thumbs-up next to a cadaver, the school said.
Erica Katz of Port Jefferson, the resident working at the medical center's emergency medicine unit, had posted the picture that showed Aaron Hartman, a former student at the medical school, next to the cadaver, a university spokeswoman said.
The photo was taken during an anatomy class, which is typically taken during a medical student's first year of study. Hartman has since graduated from the medical school, said spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow. His Facebook page indicated he graduated in 2009.
At Stony Brook, before medical students begin their anatomy class, Sheprow said, they are counseled to treat the dead with care.
"Medical students are prohibited from taking photos and told to treat cadavers with dignity and respect," Sheprow said.
Numerous efforts were made to contact Katz and Hartman, but they did not return calls.
Sheprow said she did not know if the university has made any efforts to identify the cadaver or notify the man's family.
Peter Williams, Stony Brook's vice dean for academic and faculty affairs, who has taught medical ethics for three decades, said what Katz did was, without a doubt, beyond the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
"Everybody on campus thinks the taking of the photo is horrifying and unprofessional; her posting of the photo was stupid and infantile," Williams said.
Everyone, however, makes mistakes, Williams said. If this is an isolated incident, Katz should be chastised.
If identification of the cadaver is possible, Williams said university officials should ask Katz to apologize to the dead man's family. He also said incidents like this could make it harder for the university to obtain cadavers.
On Thursday, Richard Fine, dean of the medical school, received an e-mail with the photograph from the Facebook page attached, Sheprow said. Friday morning, college officials contacted Katz and asked her to remove the photograph from the popular social network site, Sheprow said, and Katz complied immediately.
Sheprow said no one at the hospital administration knew the picture existed until now.
Fine, who Sheprow said was out of state Friday, has asked faculty members at the anatomy lab and the school of medicine to meet with him on Monday to discuss the matter and work to prevent students from taking pictures during anatomy class.
"The school of medicine is taking it seriously and they're looking into it," Sheprow said.