Students being students, the prospect of a selfie with severed heads at a dental training conference is way cooler than privacy laws and proper lab etiquette.

Graduate dental school students and a top University of Connecticut orthodontics professor took a selfie with two severed heads used for medical research at a training workshop at Yale University last year – an episode Yale officials called “disturbing” and “inexcusable”.

The selfie was taken in June at the Yale School of Medicine during the 2017 DePuy Synthes Future Leaders Workshop, which focused on dental-related facial deformities.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the photo from a person who received it through a private group chat.

Maybe it’s wrong, but I’m deeply amused by this (mostly because I don’t have to deal with it or clean up the mess). Situations like this are at the intersection of like six different sets of rules all competing for who gets to come down the hardest. Who will institute the severest consequences, UConn or Yale? Will the severed heads be yanked from use? Will the FedGov get involved because HIPAA? SO MUCH DRAMA.

Severed heads are the weirdest non-sequitur, and I love absurdist humor. And this is absurdist humor in real life!

Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said the School of Medicine took the matter very seriously. He said there was clear signage forbidding photography at each entrance to the laboratory. He also said the symposium was not part of Yale’s anatomy program, and the heads in the selfie were not donated to Yale.


It was not clear how the heads were obtained.

No one’s going to admit that they have severed heads in their anatomy lab basement? Trust me, when you walk through the anatomy freezer at the right time and hear the saw going full blast, you know what’s going on.

Of course the Yale School of Medicine is taking this seriously. The biggest problems with privacy in a School of Medicine is that–unlike educational privacy laws–HIPAA is actually enforced. Most schools do a training designed to scare people into following privacy laws, but this is not the first time that a student has hit the jackpot of stupidity by sharing a medical-related photo on social media.

Remember, kids: even metadata can count as protected health information.

(The unspoken thing here is that HIPAA breaches can cost millions of dollars in fines and corrective action plans.)

The drama of academia, folks.