At the beginning of our Gross Anatomy course, each of us were assigned to a lab group of about 4 students. Each lab group was assigned to a donor. Each donor gave his or her body to four medical students, who were responsible for learning anatomy through dissection. At the end of the course, our class participated in a Memorial Service to thank, honor, and remember our donors for all they gave to us. As medical students, we are taught to take in a lot of information. We are told to take advantage of every opportunity and to take ownership of our education. Throughout the course, we took a great deal of information and hands-on experience from many hours of time in the gross anatomy lab with our donors. We labored in dissection. We tried to take in as much knowledge as we could. We have been given so much by the people who committed to give their bodies after their death to us to learn the intricacies of their body. The donors were our first patients, and we took so much from them. After our last anatomy practical exam, we went back to the lab with a different reason than taking—we went back to remember, celebrate, and honor our first patients with a memorial service.
The memorial service began with a recognition of the veterans who gave their lives to serve our country. We prayed, sung, and shared stories, thoughts, poems, and words. Some of us shared about what each of our patients taught us. Others shared how they have changed because of the donors’ gift. The service was a time to set our hearts and minds on the life each man and woman had lived. Although we know very little of their life on earth, we know so much about their body and about the great sacrifice they gave for the good of others. Each tank had the opportunity to share some words.
But, what could we possibly give back to the ones who gave us so much? I think most of us realized we now have a great responsibility to make the most of what each man and woman gave to us. This responsibility goes far beyond a memorial service. We have a great responsibility to use the knowledge base our donors provided to serve others and to be the best doctors we can be.
Coming into medical school, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the gift I was yet to receive during the course of anatomy. Our first patient did, though. He knew he was going to die one day and his body would be given to teach future doctors the intricacies of the human body. All we can say is thank you. We said it through our words and songs at the memorial service, and now we have to say thank you by what we go and do. Below is a collection of words, poems, and excepts read at the memorial service.
Above: A letter read by an M1 student during the Memorial Service