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Donor Memorial Ceremony

Students Show Their Gratitude to Whole Body Donors




(April 23, 2014) Anschutz Medical Campus - Michelle Marr remembers feeling some trepidation when she began human anatomy class, knowing what challenges lay ahead.
"I was nervous with the intrusion into the form that used to hold someone's life. I think ultimately I was just afraid of somehow being disrespectful."
Her uneasiness faded  as she learned the muscles, nerves and ligaments of the body she had been assigned. When her first exam approached and she began to spend extra hours in lab, she noticed a new feeling surfacing.
It happened while she was in lab after hours with several other students. The room grew too crowded so she decided to move to a different donor body to continue her work.
"I found I was hesitant to leave. And a feeling of protectiveness came over me. I felt like I had to stay to protect the person I'd been working on."
She realized that she "had grown a fondness for someone who I'd never known while they were alive."
Marr, a physical therapy class of 2016 student, was one of several health sciences students to speak to an audience of more than 250 friends and family of donors and fellow students at the annual Donor Memorial Ceremony at Anschutz Medical Campus.
For Whitney Sumner, medical student class of 2017, the ceremony created a dialogue she longed for in her days in anatomy lab. "We felt a connection to our donors. They became integral parts of our lives. They taught us what it means to be human."
Jason Santiago, medical student class of 2017, urged students to remember the scars and markings found on the donor bodies. "Behind every patient's chief complaint is an elaborate backdrop of mental and physical wounds that call us to deliver care that is both personalized and thoughtful."
Lindsey Meyer, child health associate/physician assistant class of 2016 student, said students wondered about the stories donors could have shared.
"We thought a lot about what their lives would were like. Was he a father that enjoyed playing football in the backyard with his sons? Did she spoil her grandchildren? ... We wondered, what was their motivation for teaching us? How kind and generous they must have been in every aspect of their lives, if their last bequest was for the benefit of total strangers."

After the students spoke, families and friends of donors helped give color and personality to the anonymous donor bodies the students had dissected.
One man told of his father, a farmer and preacher, who upon learning of the body donation program asked "So my body could go on to be a living testament for Jesus Christ after I'm gone?"
Another woman said she learned that her father had said in his high school yearbook that he wanted to be a pediatrician. "Dad finally made it into medical school by donating his body."
Finally, a woman spoke of her husband, a graduate of the CU School of Medicine class of 1952 and whose parents were Japanese immigrants. School was not easy for him partly because he learned English late, "so he tried harder. He remembered things better than if they'd been easy."
Her husband was grateful he was accepted to medical school when the competition from returning World War II vets was intense, and he donated his body because he felt strongly that current students should have the advantages that he had.
She plans on following her husband's example.
"You can look for me one day. But I'm sorry. Parts are missing."