With heartfelt poems and speeches and a rousing address from a young

Pomona pastor urging them to “”never lose the awe and reverence for what

you do,”” first-year osteopathic medical students at Western University of

Health Sciences paid tribute January 29 to the individuals who donated

their bodies to the institution’s Willed Body Donor Program.

Students in their first year of study at the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of

the Pacific take a five-month gross anatomy course during which they

dissect human cadavers. The cadavers come from the bodies of individuals

who donated their remains to the Willed Body Donor Program. The students

never know donors’ identities; the donor program’s managers never release

their names.

“”Let us learn from these extraordinary people, that what is most important

is to recognize that the human body is a miracle, designed for health, and

that our job as physicians is to maintain that health, to give every one

of our patients the opportunity to live with this intricate work of art at

it’s full and infinite potential,”” said student Jeanelle Y. Gilbert during

the service.

The memorial service, organized by the students themselves and held in

Prem Reddy Hall just days before the gross anatomy final exam, serves to

remind the students of the humanity the cadavers once held and to remember

that the cadavers and their family members – who may or may not have

agreed with their loved one’s decision to donate his or her body to the

Willed Body Donor Program – gave them an incredible gift, said Jonathan

Leo, PhD, associate professor of anatomy.

Dr. Leo said the students, led by classmate Tiffany Reavis, who organized

the service, kept the program as non-denominational as possible because of

the diversity of religious beliefs held by the 173 class members. Students

gathered in Prem Reddy Hall at noon

Several students read poems, short essays they had written or a favorite

prayer. MP Donaldson sang a favorite song for the occasion and Mathew

Cheung read a poem he’d written:

“”I don’t know who he is, I don’t know his name. I don’t know what he’s

done, where he’s been, what he’s seen, what fills the pages of his

biography. What I know of him is from his anatomy. I’ve through his torso,

gone through his limbs, examined the beautiful world right beneath his

skin. And they say beauty is only skin deep?. Those who say that don’t

know the world beneath.””

Jim “”Stick”” Jackson, a youth pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pomona,

encouraged the students to give thanks to the donors and their family

members.

“”The cornerstone of their sacrifice is really the families’,”” he

said. “”You get the benefit of the sacrifice of others. Of their emotions

and the bodies of their loved ones.””

“”Some day you will be a gift to your patients as a healer and you’ll be so

in great part because of the great gift these people gave you when they

donated their bodies to our program,”” said university President Philip

Pumerantz, PhD.

The service ended with a moment of silent thanks to the donors and their

families.