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Students honor first patients through memorial service

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The class of 2010 carried on a special Medical School tradition Feb. 13 by honoring those who gave their bodies for the benefits of science and education. The Cadaver Memorial Service took place in the Fifth Floor Gallery and included musical tributes, talks, and a candlelight vigil.

First-year medical students meet what will become their first patients - the cadavers - the day they walk into the gross anatomy laboratory. Although the students never knew these people, this ceremony gives them a chance to remember what they learned from them.

"We are here to reflect not so much on what we learned about our cadavers, though we all have colorful memories, but rather to consider what they taught us," said student Taylor Wootton, who spoke on behalf of her class. "We are here to reflect upon the amazing opportunity afforded us as medical students to peer into the human body and to remember the remarkable gift given by those precious people who, when their time on earth was through, continued to contribute to humanity."

Wootton concluded her talk by encouraging her fellow classmates to honor their first patients by becoming compassionate physicians who are committed to giving their future patients the best care possible.

Wootton's essay was followed by remarks from Dr. Len Cleary, director of the gross anatomy course, who reminded students that their education depends to a great degree on selfless acts by the community.

"In gross anatomy, the donors make their remains available to you for your benefit," Cleary said. "Looking forward to the next several years, your education, your skills, and your experience will be advanced by interactions with your patients. Therefore, I hope that in the future you will take the time, with or without the benefit of a ceremony such as this one, to reflect and be thankful for the opportunities provided by your patients."

Before the candlelight vigil, students Synda Vandenmooter and Enjoli Benitez gave a special performance of the song "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan.

Students then lit candles in honor and in memory of each body that was given to advance their medical education and training, accompanied by instrumental music from students Jamie Gautreau, Ryan Tatum, Benitez, and Arielle DuBose. The candle lighting ceremony was followed by a moment of silence.

The cadavers for the gross anatomy laboratory course are donated through the Willed Body Program. For more details, see

-C. Webb

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