Eighty-six donor-patients were remembered with tears, jokes, and laughter as their family members, and students and faculty from COMP-Northwest, celebrated their lives on Friday, December 4, 2015.
The fifth annual donor memorial service at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest was the most heavily attended to date, with approximately 100 family members and 100 first-year medical students in the crowd.
The first course medical students take at COMP-Northwest is anatomy. In groups of six, the students work on their donor-patient throughout the eight-week course.
“As first-year students, we have the opportunity of taking an anatomy course, and we as group have had the most amazing opportunity to spend several hours with your friends, family and loved ones,” first-year medical student Joshua Nelson told the crowd. “It has been a real privilege for us to spend that time and learn and grow as a result of that gift.”
“We refer to your family and friends as our first patient. Personally, I know I am a better student, more devoted and committed to what I study, and will be a better physician for my future patients, because of the significant time I got to spend with (donor patient) Richard,” Nelson said. “For the rest of my life, Richard will be remembered as my first patient, and he taught me more than any computer could’ve ever taught me.”
William Merbs, vice chair of anatomical medical sciences at COMP-Northwest, said the students treat their first patient with respect and love.
“I’ve watched students carefully tuck in donors for the night,” Merbs said. “I have seen students hold the donor’s hand while they are learning from them in the middle of lab. I have seen students pat their cheek affectionately.”
To honor the donor-patients who were military veterans, flags were presented by the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps from Lebanon High School. Luke Rauch, COMP-Northwest recruitment and public relations officer, played “Taps,” and Reverend Wes Sedlacek, chaplain for Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, led the invocation. Sedlacek read “We Remember Them,” a poem by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer.
In small groups, medical students lit a candle and said the name and occupation of their donor-patient. A slideshow of the donor-patients followed.
The families of the donor-patients talked about their loved ones, giving the medical students insight into their first patients. The donor-patients were teachers, soldiers, attorneys, caregivers, and more. All wanted to leave their world in a better place.
“It takes a special someone who is caring to know how beneficial their body can be in helping others,” said first-year medical student Connor Weston. “This room is full of individuals who strive to be good people. We work hard to put our stamp on the world in hopes of making it better for our families, friends and for strangers. And that’s exactly what your loved ones did.”
“I feel that I speak when for all students when I say we are better students because of these patients,” Weston said. “Our patients of the future may not know of the sacrifice made, but my colleagues and I will always remember.”
To learn more about WesternU’s Body Donation Program, visit https://www.westernu.edu/body-donation-program.