Cadaver Memorial 2011

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Western University of Health Sciences students paid their respects to Willed Body Program donors and their families, a gift that left an indelible impression on their early health sciences education.

The student-sponsored Cadaver Farewell Memorial Service on Oct. 26, 2011 at WesternU honored 51 donors, including nine veterans who were recognized with a flag presentation and the playing of “Taps.”

Students from the dental medicine, medical sciences, optometry, osteopathic medicine, physical therapy and podiatric medicine programs sang songs, read poetry, played musical instruments and shared their thoughts about the gift of donation.

“We would like to thank all the families today,” said first-year College of Dental Medicine student Shahbaz Katebzadeh, DMD ’15. “Thank you for this experience and giving us the opportunity to work so intimately with our first patient — your family, your loved ones.”

Their donation contributed to the education of about 375 students in the summer and fall sessions, said Mathew Wedel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anatomy for the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and the College of Podiatric Medicine.

“In the past weeks and months, we have worked with these deceased. We’ve worked with our scissors and scalpels, and with the keenest instruments that are available to us, which are our minds,” he said. “But I’m convinced the deceased have worked in turn on us, on our souls, in ways that are as subtle and profound and inevitable as the tide.

“Just as someone who stands before the ocean or the mountains or the night sky, we are awed by this glimpse into eternity and we are humbled by the magnitude of the sacrifice made on our behalf,” he said. “This is our time to acknowledge that truth, and to say thank you and to pay our respects.”

Robin Ring, who played several harp solos during the ceremony, is signed up as a Willed Body Program donor. Her favorite class in college was anatomy, and she in turn wanted to become a donor. Her mother, who died two years ago, was also a donor to the Willed Body Program.

“It was so hard to get through the funeral,” Ring said. “To have this two years later, this is what I needed to get through when I couldn’t back then.”

First-year College of Podiatric Medicine student Mark Graeber, DPM ’15, compared students to the lower lights of a lighthouse — the smaller lights below the main beam used to guide vessels back safely to harbor at night.

“All of us are going to be entering a health profession, and we will all be responsible for the safety and the very lives of the patients we are given. This is a tremendous privilege and an honor for all of us,” he said. “Because of the generosity of those who donated themselves as their last gift to people, they have played an enormous role in saving the lives of many. They’ve given us a gift of knowledge, a gift of education, a gift of understanding, and I don’t think there really is a way we can show enough gratitude for this. I think the simplest way is just to say thank you to all those people who donated themselves to us.

“For this we humbly thank them,” he added. “And please remember always those who helped us with this education. Always remember to keep your lower lights burning, because you never know whom you may save.”