Early St. Norbert Connections Endow Cadaver Lab

Drs. David ’03 and Ellen ’02 (Underwood) Fischer can attest to the benefits of the small class sizes at St. Norbert College. They couldn’t help but meet when enrolled in the same chemistry class, and the couple credits numerous science classes together for fostering their relationship.

“At St. Norbert College, students with similar interests are sure to cross paths,” said Ellen. “We were both pre-dental students planning to attend Marquette University for dental school.”

Both would go on to earn Doctor of Dental Surgery degrees from Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee – Ellen in 2006 and David a year later. They were married in April of 2007.

Ellen, an Appleton native, practiced general dentistry in Kaukauna for five years. David, who is originally from Kaukauna, completed a four-year surgical residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Today, they make their home in Springfield, Ill., where both serve in private practices. David also treats facial trauma cases at two Level 1 trauma centers.

Northeast Wisconsin and St. Norbert College will always be special to the couple, so they decided to give back. The Fischers have set up an endowment to support the new anatomy lab in the Gehl-Mulva Science Center. This expansion and renovation of the John Minahan Science Hall will be completed in 2015.

“All the classrooms and labs in JMS were aging when we were there, although the departments did a good job of integrating newer equipment for use in the labs,” said Ellen. “When I was in human anatomy class, the human anatomy dissection lab was located on the top floor of JMS in an area that was currently being used more as storage than as an area of instruction.”

“The next year when I took human anatomy, the lab had been moved to the first floor of JMS near the back entrance,” explained David. “The human dissection lab has not had a good location for many years despite it being a very important learning tool for any student interested in professional school or the health care field.”

The endowment will provide for the “Drs. David and Ellen Fischer Anatomy Prep Lab.” St. Norbert is one of the few private liberal arts colleges in the United States to feature an anatomy lab with cadavers available to undergraduates. St. Norbert has partnered with Zimmer Thomson Associates in the creation of a lab where orthopedic surgeons can train. Zimmer Thomson, a distributor of joint replacement solutions, also plans to conduct regular clinical sessions at the college.

The Fischers are pleased to be able to direct their annual giving toward their field of study.

“Access to a human anatomy lab is a valuable advantage that the St. Norbert undergraduate program has over many schools, including many large schools where human cadaver study is reserved for graduate programs only,” said Ellen. “Having already taken human anatomy with a dissection lab was a major advantage when David and I took similar classes at dental school (gross anatomy followed by an intensive head and neck anatomy class).

“I have a passion for my profession and complete understanding of anatomy is the basis of every surgical procedure I perform,” said David. “From dental implants to cleft lip/palate repair, to trauma reconstruction, knowledge of human anatomy guides me. A state-of-the art science center with updated labs will provide a unique learning environment to mold young health professionals of tomorrow.”

The 150,000-square-foot Gehl-Mulva Science Center will include a 57,800-square-foot addition to the old science building. It will house 36 laboratories for research and teaching in anatomy, organic and synthetic chemistry, geology, physics, microbiology, immunology, physiology, robotics and psychology. The science center will also be home to the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Green Bay campus. The community medical education program will admit its first 15 students in July of 2015. 

Oct. 1, 2013