Body Donor Memorial Ceremony: Honoring Those Who Gave Their Bodies to Science

On Friday, May 14, students, faculty, and staff of the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership gathered in Royar Square on the Health Sciences Campus to honor those who gave their bodies to science.

Anatomy Interest Group Co-President Jordan Baker said he had excitement and sadness going into the ceremony as it came time to honor the seven donors.

“I want to express the utmost gratitude. Acknowledging their sacrifice and commitment to educate future physicians through their donation has created an incredible foundation for my colleagues, and that cannot be substituted by any textbook, research article, or video.”

The ceremony began with a welcome M1 Class President Tony Thawanyarat and Vice President Laurel Parker.

Baker then spoke with fellow Anatomy Interest Group Co-President, Alex Parsons.

“It’s an honor to recognize them today,” said Parsons. “They deserved to be honored for the sacrifice they made to benefit our learning and goals.”

“These dedicated individuals saw the benefit they could provide for future physicians. Something that was not a requirement – rather a commitment to educate and transform – speaks values to their intent and granting us permission to explore the human anatomy in the most intricate, emotional, and respectful way possible,” said Baker.

Students were then encouraged to light candles in honor of their body donors and write thank you notes to the families.

Baker and Parson said their mission with the thank you cards was to simply express gratitude.

“I wanted say thank you for your willingness and understanding. A delayed process to celebrate life can be difficult,” said Baker. “However, I would let each family know that their loved-one’s sacrifice made me not only a better future physician but individual in general. A great deal of respect, connection, and knowledge were developed during anatomy lab, and without the incredible gesture of our body donors, many of those qualities would not have been developed to the same degree.”

“I wanted to say to the families—thank you for sharing their lives with us and now allowing them to be part of ours,” said Parsons.

Now that their services to science have been completed, the bodies will be cremated and returned to their families. If for any reason a body does not go back to a family, it is interred at the Medical College of Georgia’s main campus in Augusta.

The ceremony ended with remarks from Associate Professor of Anatomy Dr. Brett Szymik.

“I’d like to express my condolences to the families,” said Szymik. “For each body donor we have, there are people who they left behind, and those people have been denied, even to this day, access to the body of their loves ones. Sometimes we forget about the people who are left in the wake of death. I learn so much from these donors each year, and they help me help other people learn. As a teacher, I can’t ask for more than that.”

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