Honoring a selfless act
School of Physician Assistant Studies class of 2024 holds ceremony recognizing anatomy lab donors
March 6, 2023— They were teachers. Hospital administrators. Grandmothers. Husbands. Their deaths ranged from natural causes to long battles with cancer. On Feb. 22, members of the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies class of 2024 honored the lives and legacies of the people who chose to donate their bodies to further medical knowledge at a ceremony in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building.
During their anatomy lab this summer, first-year PA students bonded with people they had never met when they were alive to better understand the human body. By studying the cadavers, the students took the first steps toward treating their own patients.
“All those individuals were your teachers for six weeks,” said anatomy professor Kyle Rarey, Ph.D.
At the ceremony, students and anatomy faculty gathered to consider the lives of the donors and reflect on their lab experiences. Students read aloud letters sent to the school by family members of two donors. One relative wrote of a grandmother and teacher whose weakest organ — her heart — was also her strongest, touching the souls of her family members and students during her lifetime. Another loved one’s letter provided insights into a devoted father and husband who “sang like an angel,” and made the world a better place.
Samantha Golden, vice president for the PA class of 2024, presented a glass art picture of a brain that she created with her mother and grandmother, as a token of thanks to the anatomy professors.
“Glassblowing and glassmaking is a tradition of the women of our family,” Golden said. “It’s something we make for all occasions, and we use it to celebrate and show our gratitude.”
Each lab group also shared a letter or poem that recognized the donor they worked with and the humbling experience of going through anatomy lab. As the groups spoke, monitors across the room showed a sketch of a skeleton standing in a black and white anatomy room, surrounded by colorful presents on tables that represented the donors and the gifts their bodies provide to the field of medicine.
PA student Jared Boyette said he felt great respect for his anatomy group’s donor, a 77-year-old military lieutenant commander who dedicated his career to his country and continued to serve others following his death.
“This was a big bonding experience for us as a class as well because we didn’t really know each other before the lab started in the summer,” Boyette said. “It really created a strong connection for the members of the different groups.”
Another student, Bayley Seymour, said she left the anatomy lab and donor ceremony with a sense of gratitude.
“Knowing that our donor was a teacher, as well as her cause of death and having a letter from her family, helped me to picture her as somebody who was loved by her family,” Seymour said. “I hope they understand the respect we have for her.”