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Donor Memorial Ceremony 2019

Students Show Gratitude to Whole Body Donors

(April 18, 2019) Aurora, Colo. - Anschutz Medical Campus students gathered on Thursday to show their gratitude to the men and women who donated their remains for the purpose of training future health care workers.

Several student speakers told the audience filled with students, and families and friends of donors, that the lessons they learned from the donors prepared them for their careers in patient care and research. 

"If this sacrifice leads to some cure or cutting-edge treatment, (donors) receive no reward, no payout, and often no recognition," medical student Samantha Connor said. "I benefit, future patients benefit from this life that has been lost. But, in a different way, they live on forever from the lessons we gathered from our time with them. Our careers, quite literally, began with their sacrifice." 

Modern Human Anatomy student Tyler Johnson said students in the first semester of the program make models of tissues, bones and organs from CT scans taken from donors' bodies.  

"The body many thought would just be physical teaching tool is now a digital tool that all students will continue using long after this body is gone," Johnson said.  

​Several students commented on the generosity of donors. 

"You are our first teachers and our first patients," physician assistant student Melanie Logan said. "Because of your generosity, we now understand the foundations for clinical medicine, the uniqueness and variability of the human body, and the incredible power of a life well-lived. 

“There is no textbook that could parallel the lessons you have taught me and my classmates and for that, we are forever grateful. We hope to emulate the same compassion you did at the end of your life with our patients every single day.” 

Dental medicine student Kory Carpenter noted the "uncommon selflessness to donate one's very body to assist in the future healing of others. 

"That sort of love extends beyond death. The charity that motivated our donors to honor us students with the gift of their bodies is the same love that they expressed to their spouses, friends, and families while they were alive." 

Following her experience in anatomy class, physical therapy student Megan O'Connor decided to add her name to the donor registry. 

"I never considered what would become of my body once I left it," she said. "Because of the depth of knowledge and understanding provided by your loved ones, friends, and family members I am inspired to pay it forward in a similar fashion ... I hope to live a full  life that leaves students wondering who I was, who I cared for, who I loved, what each day was like for me." 

Friends and family members eulogized their loved ones, remembering their humor and eccentricities, their kindness and generosity. 

Pam McWilliams, commemorating her husband, Ryan, who died at age 40 from colon cancer, said he instantly embraced the idea of body donation.

"It took no more than two seconds for him to decide that was the right decision — it fit all of his morals. He knew that it would help future doctors to continue to provide great, research-based medical care, and maybe someday find a cure for this horrible disease."