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The University of South Alabama College of Medicine held its Anatomical Gifts Memorial Service on April 21, 2017. The service provided an opportunity for families to meet with the medical students impacted by their loved one’s donation and for the students to express their gratitude.
Bodies donated to the USA Anatomical Gifts Program are not only used to train medical students learning anatomy during their first year of medical school, but also to train practicing physicians learning new medical procedures and to aid in physician research. The bodies are treated respectfully and professionally by students and physicians alike.
The donors are introduced to the medical students as their first patients, allowing them to learn human anatomy in greater detail than learning from a textbook alone. “During the first year we learn the human anatomy from the neck down in roughly four weeks, which is arguably one of the most challenging months in our medical school journey,” said Ben McCormick, a first-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine. “I cannot emphasize enough how educationally enriching the time spent with our donor was. Gross anatomy lab is an integral rite of passage in becoming a physician and a crucial didactic opportunity for medical students.”
McCormick, who also helped organize this year’s memorial service, said the donors provided him with many invaluable first experiences. “I will always remember the first time I held a human heart,” he said. “Working with the donors truly made us consider the transiency of our time in this world.”
Another first-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine, Whitney Smith, also helped organize the memorial service. “I think it is important for students to express their gratitude to the families because the donors have impacted our careers in a way the families may not know,” she said. “The anatomical gifts program allowed me the opportunity to not only learn the anatomy, but to forever have a visual representation of all the organ systems, nerves and vessels in a three-dimensional image.”
Smith said she chose a career in medicine because she wanted to do more for others than she did for herself. “The donors are a prime example of selflessness and giving to further someone’s education,” she said. “I hope to carry that mindset throughout my career with every single patient.”
During the service, second-year medical student Matthew Robson thanked the family members of participants in the Anatomic Gifts Program. The following is a portion of his presentation:
“Not only did the donors teach us anatomy, but they also taught us about respect, compassion and reminded us to give wholeheartedly. We were honored to have your loved ones as teachers. Physically, they taught me about the beauty and fragility of the human body. Educating my classmates and I on the most intricate details and allowing for experiences that no book, computer screens or interactive software will be able to replicate. Experiences that will last a lifetime and make each of us better health care providers.
Through their sacrifice and gift, they taught us skills that will ultimately give others life.
They also taught us a second lesson—a lesson about compassion and serving selflessly. With their donation they gave up their most personal possessions - themselves - hoping that they would be able to make a positive impact on the future. Upon reflection, it is extremely humbling to take part in this experience and be given the trust of our first patient so eagerly and so entirely.
Thank you for lending us your loved ones so that they could teach us. We hope to honor their gift with a lifetime of altruistic and compassionate care.”
The USA Anatomical Gifts Program holds a memorial service every two years to honor the lives of donors. If you are interested in becoming a donor or would like more information, click here.
© 2017 USA Health System