Medical Students Gather to Remember Lives of Donors

Students honor and express their gratitude for the lives of the bodies they examined.

Micah Hester, Ph.D. spoke during the ceremony and encouraged students to let their first dissection experience impacted their careers.

Student and violinist Darby Bedell played during the ceremony.

Nov. 26, 2013 | Some shed tears while others shared words of awe over the structure of the human body. But every member of the UAMS College of Medicine freshman class expressed deep gratitude for the lives of the bodies they examined during their annual “Ceremony of Gratitude and Reflection.”

For the class, dissecting bodies donated through the UAMS Anatomical Gift Program is the first time they have had an emotional connection with their education. To express their gratitude, class members conduct a ceremony to honor the donors through art, words and acts of service toward the donors and their families.

This year’s ceremony included music from College of Medicine student and violinist Darby Bedell, a rose presentation in remembrance of the lives and remarks from faculty, staff and students. As a new tradition, the class created works of art to represent their course experience, which will be displayed in the College of Medicine’s gross anatomy lab.

Micah Hester, Ph.D., division chief of the UAMS Division of Medical Humanities; Linda Murphy, a freshman student; and Susan McDougal, UAMS Medical Center staff chaplain, offered words of reflection during the ceremony held in the Fred W. Smith Auditorium of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.

“Our bodies are not just matter, they truly matter,” Hester said. “Humans are embodied beings, making our presences known and felt in the world in and through our bodies. Without our bodies we are never truly alive. Therefore, to confront a body is to confront someone, to confront an individual, to confront a person.”

Hester encouraged students to relish their first dissection experience and let it impact their future careers.

“Only through acts of charity can your learning occur and from these acts of charity you incur a debt,” Hester said. “I encourage you to pay it forward. You will not ever become physicians without the kindness of others. You pay these donors no greater respect when as physicians you use your knowledge to furnish tools of inquiry into the full extent of every patient’s life story in order to heal them when possible, comfort them when necessary and care for them always.”

Students presented roses in honor of each life along with words of appreciation. Some of their remarks included, “This experience has provided the foundation for our careers” and “Thank you for trusting us without even knowing us.” Others read, “You were one of the best teachers we have ever had” and “In death you have given us life.”

Wilson Alobuia, freshman class president, and McDougal closed the ceremony with words of appreciation.

“The lives of these people became your teachers in their death, and granted you the knowledge of the workings of the human body so that through your hands may come healing,” McDougal said. “Their life and their death then are not without meaning.”

Alobuia thanked Class of 2017 Student Advocacy Council members, as well as members of the Ceremony of Gratitude and Reflection committee for organizing the ceremony.

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