Memorial honors anatomy donors

Sam Boeser

Amid smiles and tears, friends, family, faculty members and students gathered Tuesday night at the Ted Mann Concert Hall to recognize those who have donated their bodies to the University’s Anatomy Bequest Program.

The program takes the bodies of people who have died and donates them to the University for study by medical and dental students. The bodies can be donated by the deceased’s family, or people can decide to donate their bodies before their deaths.

Each year, students hold an annual memorial service to acknowledge the people who donated their bodies to the program.

Now in its 11th consecutive year, the program is coordinated and run entirely by a committee of student volunteers, as it has been since its inception.

“I think it’s important to give thanks and to recognize people that are basically our teachers,” said Mai Vang, a first-year medical student.

The students began the evening by displaying artwork created to honor those who offered themselves to the program.

Throughout the memorial ceremony, students regaled the packed auditorium with songs, original compositions, poetry recitals and readings all meant to recognize those who donated bodies to the program.

“It’s a way medical and dental students say ‘Thank you’ to the families,” said David A. Lee, director of the University’s Anatomy Bequest Program. “They understand the relevance of that.”

Lee said the program also provides a sense of closure to many families that have donated loved ones to the University for research.

At the closing of the ceremony, students handed out remembrance candles and offered flowers to departing family members.

Lee said the medical students and directors sent out more than 300 invitations for Tuesday’s ceremony, and he estimated the interfaith service drew more than 500 people to the concert hall.

Many students said throughout the night that the families’ donations made their studies possible.

“Anatomy education really requires that one study the human body;” said Dr. Kenneth Roberts, the anatomy course director. “We have faith in our health-care officials but think about that first phase.”

The faculty members and students also stressed that bodies donated to the program are treated with dignity and respect.

As the night concluded, attendees moved to a reception area where there was a display of the art created by students. It depicted scenes of nature and works representing the human life cycle.

Many students stayed to thank family members as the event concluded.

“The true gift is not to us as individuals, but those who will receive treatment from us,” said Eric Unkenholz, a first-year dental student.