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WesternU students honor Willed Body program donors

by Rodney Tanaka

November 1, 2013

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Western University of Health Sciences students held a memorial service for Willed Body Program donors and their families, featuring musical performances and personal recollections and messages.

The student-sponsored Cadaver Memorial Service on Nov. 1, 2013 honored 46 donors, including six veterans who were recognized with the playing of “Taps.”

“You have one more responsibility … to help send your patient and your teacher – the cadaver you’ve been working on – back to a final place to rest,” said College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) Professor of Anatomy Craig Kuehn, PhD. “Nina McCoy, our Willed Body Program director, promised the families she would return their loved ones you have been privileged to work on this past year. We have one last chance today to say goodbye before sending them on to a final home.”

Master of ceremonies Baier Rakowski, president of the COMP Class of 2017, thanked faculty and staff for their contributions to their education.

“Today we recognize the extraordinary gift of 46 individuals who decided to give the gift of learning to tomorrow’s next generation of health care providers,” he said. “For the last 12 weeks for some of us, and sometimes even longer, we delved into the secrets of the human body being taught by its greatest teacher – the human body itself. We’ve seen with our own eyes the truth behind the words, ‘Every body is different.’ This ceremony exists so that we may wish our teachers well on the last leg of their long journey, sending them off with dignity and respect.”

A memorial plaque reading, “The gift of a few touches many,” was signed by students from COMP, the College of Podiatric Medicine, the College of Dental Medicine and the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences who participated in the medical gross anatomy course.

COMP student Sean Wyman spoke as both a student who took gross anatomy and as the son of a Willed Body Program donor. His father, Dennis, was a teacher throughout his life. His mother agreed to let his father join the Willed Body Program if his remains were returned to her so she could have some closure, Wyman said.

Wyman’s experience in the anatomy lab as an MSMS and COMP student showed him that WesternU students are some of the best.

“We exhibit some of the most dignity and respect toward each and every one of our first patients, and that is something not only my family appreciates, but my dad would appreciate as well,” he said. “I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the opportunity to use dignity, respect and compassion, and I hope you take that on into your careers and practice it with each and every one of your patients.”

Rosa Shim and Martin Baik traveled from Korea for the ceremony. Their son, Joseph Baik, graduated from USC in 2011 and was part of the ROTC program. He died at age 22.

“We decided he would have liked to be part of the Willed Body Program,” Shim said. “I think it’s a great service. It’s a very good tradition to help the medical profession become more aware how the living can work with the dead.”

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