CINCINNATI—The annual memorial service for people who have donated their bodies for medical education will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, in Kresge Auditorium on the medical campus of the University of Cincinnati (UC).
The service will remember 200 donors and honor their families. The donor bodies to be honored were recently cremated and interred at Spring Grove Cemetery. The service will include a performance by the College of Medicine student chorus and comments from current and emeriti faculty and medical students.
"The annual service is open to anyone, but the majority of people who attend are families that didn't have a final resting place for their loved ones, so they choose to go with the burial plot for their loved one that we have at Spring Grove,” says Gina Burg, program director of the Body Donation Program at UC.
Each year, the College of Medicine receives more than 400 donor bodies, which are used to train medical students who will become a new generation of physicians, says Burg. Students study donor bodies throughout each year of their medical degree program, starting in year one with a gross anatomy course.
Matthew Maksimoski and Ellie Farr, two second-year medical students, will be among a group of medical students who will make remarks at Saturday’s event.
"A lot of programs across the country are moving to online or digital dissection,” says Farr. "For me, I don't get a comprehensive understanding of the location and variation of the anatomy unless I see it myself.
"I really feel like the body donation program provides me with the best education I can get. It not only teaches me the anatomy, but gives me first-hand experience to see what it looks like when a patient has cancer, or has had a kidney removed.” says Farr. "I am indebted to the donors for what I think is the most important part of my medical education."
Maksimoski says faculty members teach students how to handle donated bodies with the respect that’s deserved.
"Something our professors always stress is, ‘this is your first patient,’” says Maksimoski. "Hearing that really gives everyone a different perspective and makes us all more respectful and provides a much better learning opportunity.
"Each one of our donor families and each person who has been a donor respectfully will get a share of everything I will do in my career as a physician. There are so many things that will be gained for me because of what they have done.”
UC’s Body Donation Program works with all individuals interested in participating, signing up anywhere from 75 to 100 donors each month.
The Body Donation Program supports medical education, not research.
"We are not looking for specific diseases or researching illnesses or trying to find cures,” says Burg. "A lot of people want to find out why a loved one had this disease or that disease and we have to make sure they know we don't do that at all.”
Interested donors are encouraged to talk with their family and stress their desire to make a donation upon death. To be accepted as a donor, pre-registration (with signature from next of kin) is required prior to a donor’s death.
For more information about UC Body Donation Program, visit http://med.uc.edu/bodydonation or call 513-558-5612.