A Final Goodbye: Med Students Honor Body Donors


Three months after picking up scalpels for the first time to begin dissecting human cadavers, first-year medical students at the College of Medicine said their final goodbyes to those who donated the ultimate gift a person can give in order to further medical education.

The Class of 2012 Anatomy Commemorative Ceremony was held in the HPNP Auditorium on Dec. 1 to  honor the individuals whose bodies were used for the COM human anatomy course.  The solemn celebration included musical performances, poetry readings and expressions of gratitude by the students.

Jennifer Rodney sang “Time to Say Goodbye,” and Mohammad Qureshi shared a Ghazal — a unique style of poetry common in Central Asia — titled “Bringing Life to the Dead” to express his “deepest respect for those who donated their bodies” and his thoughts and feelings about dissecting.

“This semester, I spent many days studying dissected human bodies and many nights contemplating the nature of death,” Qureshi said. “As future physicians, death is something we will have to face more often than other professionals.”

After Troy Pashuck and Christopher Matthews presented faculty members a thank-you card for the time they invested in the gross anatomy class, the lights dimmed and each person lit a candle. The students and faculty walked reverently to the anatomy laboratory on the ground floor of the Communicore Building, where many students reflected on their time in gross anatomy and discussed their appreciation for the individuals who will forever leave a mark not only in their future practice but also on their lives.

“It was wonderful and meaningful to gather as a class in the lab much as we did on day one, and to hear everyone’s thoughts and prayers, and finally lay all those bodies to rest after their last duties as our educators,” said Lola Xie. “I think the ceremony was a great way to bring things full circle and to remind us of the humanity aspect of this privileged profession into which we are entering.”

The end of gross anatomy is a milestone in the lives of first-year students, but it also marks just the beginning of the educational rapport they’ve built with the professors and mentors who shepherded them through the course.

“We really do have the best faculty,” Pashuck said. “They’re an amazing team.”

According to Kyle Rarey, Ph.D., interim senior associate dean for educational affairs, members of the class of 2012 understand they have been given a gift, and the night of the Anatomy Commemorative Ceremony demonstrated just that.

“They demonstrated by this ceremony why they are so special,” Rarey said. “It was one of the best ceremonies done by students at the College of Medicine.”