Honoring Those Who Gave Their Bodies to Science

A realtor. A professor. A financial advisor.

These are just a few of the professions held during the lives of the body donors at the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.

After their lives ended, they all took on a new job—teacher.

“They all served as our teachers, and we would not be able to do our jobs without our donors,” said Dr. Ariel VanLeuven, assistant professor of cellular biology and anatomy.

To honor and remember those who gave their bodies to science, students, faculty, and staff at the Medical Partnership gathered in Russell Hall on Friday, May 12 for the annual Body Donor Memorial Ceremony.

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

“This memorial is absolutely about our donors, but our anatomy team would like to express our condolences to the families of our donors,” said VanLeuven. “We often overlook the fact that our donors’ families have not been able to fully grieve the loss of their loved ones. Many have not held funerals or memorials. Let’s not forget that the most gracious of gifts to us also represents great sadness and pain to others.”

All attendees for the memorial also observed a moment of silence in honor of the donors.

“Through their donation, they have given a gift that keeps on giving. Their legacy lives on through the knowledge and skills we acquired,” said John Ostrowski, M1 class president for the Class of 2026.

“This selfless and truly unmatched gift these people have given us has allowed us the opportunity to learn,” said VanLeuven. “We hope you learned a lot in anatomy lab, and hopefully you’ll remember that you wouldn’t have had this vital opportunity without our donors.”

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.

“I’m very glad that we are taking the time to honor their bodies and their lives with the respect and gratitude they deserve,” said VanLeuven. “I hope our donors and their families know how grateful we are for the privilege we have had working with them.”

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

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