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Medical Students Plant Trees to Honor Ultimate Donation


 Members of the College of Medicine Class of 2015 pose with one of the trees they donated.
Members of the College of Medicine Class of 2015 pose with one of the trees they donated.
Medical students, including Teri Moak, center, dig in with their shovels before planting the tree they donated.
Medical students, including Teri Moak, center, dig
in with their shovels before planting the
tree they donated.

Oct. 15, 2012 | The first time second-year medical student Teri Moak encountered a cadaver in a gross anatomy class, her reaction was like many students — it was a strongly emotional experience.

The experience influenced her career path, deciding that instead of becoming a physical therapist she just had to go to medical school.

"For many medical students – all of whom must take the gross anatomy course – it's the first time they have seen a deceased human, so it can be an emotional time," said David Davies, Ph.D., associate professor and course director of medical gross anatomy in the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences in the UAMS College of Medicine. “It’s an experience that will influence how these students practice medicine.

“And since as physicians their careers could go on for several decades, it is a very enduring gift.”

Moak was in a physical therapy program when she took gross anatomy that first time. “It was a life changing moment for me,” the Mississippi native said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to go to medical school. The act of doing – of performing these procedures to learn about the body – was fascinating to me.”

Now Moak and fellow students in the UAMS College of Medicine Class of 2015 are honoring those who donated their bodies. In the spirit of a memorial service held earlier this year by the college in memory of those donors, the students have donated two trees and recently planted them on campus .

The two oak trees were planted near the Wilson Education building near a tree donated for the same purpose the previous year. Moak said she hopes the area could become a memorial to donors – a Garden of Life.

“It is the ultimate gift you can give to one’s education,” Moak said about those who have donated their bodies to science. “It has a significant effect on students – it’s very different than learning from a textbook.”

While one tree donated by a past class has been lost due to campus growth, others remain. Davies noted there are a couple of trees donated by a past class near the entrance to the Jones Eye Institute. Another grows beneath a sky bridge over Campus Drive. Then there is the maple tree from the Class of 2014 near the most recent donations.

Each year, the first-year medical students host a “Ceremony of Gratitude and Reflection,” a closed service for students and faculty to honor those who made gifts to the anatomical gift program. An inscription in the ceremony’s program reads in part: “The gift of your body to someone you will never know to benefit a world you will never see. In serving others, may we always remember the unselfish gifts of these men and women.” 

Click here to find out more about the anatomical gift program.




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