Three hearts sat side by side on a stainless steel platter Thursday in the cadaver lab at Augustana College. 

Every half-hour from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., college employees were escorted into the lab by a local physician and a member of the biology department’s faculty, who then poked, prodded and stretched the organs to show the difference between a healthy heart and a diseased muscle. 

The display, which also featured an optional view of a cadaver in the lab, was the result of a partnership between Trinity Regional Health System and the Rock Island college called “I heart Augustana.” 

The Augustana Wellness Committee is putting on a series of heart-related programming throughout the month of February. 

The last group to make it through the lab had mixed emotions about the visceral display. 

Joanne Walker, who works in the registrar’s office, watched the entire presentation but decided to leave after being invited to see the cadaver. 

“It’s very eye-opening,” Walker said after grimacing and walking out of the room. “I hope my heart doesn’t look like that.”

Walker’s thoughts about her own heart where just the reaction Steve Gottcent, chair of the wellness team, was hoping to see from participants. 

“We’ve heard a lot about heart health and, so for many people, they know it, they’ve heard it, they’re still not doing anything about it,” Gottcent said. “But maybe if they saw, not just a picture even, but an actual heart and what some of the lifestyle choices are doing to that heart, maybe that would help the message sink in a little bit more.”

After seeing the display in the cadaver lab, employees were encouraged to take a heart screening called “HeartAware” sponsored by Trinity. 

Gottcent said he hoped the shock of seeing a diseased heart in the lab would prompt viewers to take a more proactive approach to their lifestyles. 

Nick Kalina, an Augustana student, stood right beside Walker as she watched the presentation. He was, by contrast, impassive in the face of the noise, smell and sounds in the lab.

Kalina said he attended the program because heart health awareness is a big deal in his family. 

“My dad died of a heart attack, my grandpa died of a heart attack and my aunt died of a heart attack, so I figured I’d come in here and learn something,” he said. “It’s not weird or gross or anything; it is what it is.”