As a new class of University of Michigan Medical School students dedicates itself to healing, they and their peers are taking time to mark the rare and indispensible gifts given by those who have donated their bodies to science.
The students will be joined at the annual memorial service on September 7 by donors’ family members and friends, and others from the U-M community. The service, organized by the Division of Anatomical Sciences and the Anatomical Donations Program, will be held at 2 p.m., in the Washtenong Memorial Park, 3771 Whitmore Lake Road, Ann Arbor.
Supporters from across UMHS are invited to attend.
“In some small way we try to repay the family for their gift,” says Dean Mueller, coordinator of the donation program. “Often this is a donor’s only public memorial service, and families travel long distances to attend.”
The annual ceremony dates back before World War II.
Even with advanced computer programs and simulators, there is simply no substitute for dissection when it comes to learning the intricacies and complexities of the human body, Mueller says. Survivors may derive comfort from the knowledge that respect for those who have donated their bodies is maintained at all times.
At a recent memorial service, medical student Michael Ginsberg, from Bloomfield Hills, spoke about his experience with a donated body.
“I knew a little about her — cause of death, occupation, basic surgical history,” Ginsberg told Medicine at Michigan. “I wondered: How many children did she have? What would they say about her? What was she like? I was going to know this individual in a way that nobody else ever did, but I was not going to know her the way everyone else knew her.
“It was very moving, and I was taken by the generosity she had shown. I decided then to be an anatomical donor myself. I talked with my parents and asked if they would become donors. We sat down as a family and signed each other’s donation forms for U-M.”
The U-M’s Anatomical Donations Program receives about 250 donations each year. Many donors are former faculty, staff or students. Donations are always needed for use in student education, medical research studies or by physicians learning new surgical techniques.