Nov. 7, 2019

Moses Lam, first-year medical student at UMMC, speaks during a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Moses Lam, first-year medical student at UMMC, speaks during a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
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Memorial honors those who gifted their bodies to science

Published on Monday, May 17, 2021

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

A roll call in the University Chapel last week honored 165 people whose charity earned each the right to be called “teacher” and “hero” by those who survive them.

The occasion was “A Virtual Ceremony of Thanksgiving in Memory of Anatomical Donors,” held Tuesday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center as a gesture of gratitude to those “who made a gift of their bodies,” in the words of Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and School of Medicine Dean, speaks at a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, speaks during the Ceremony of Thanksgiving for Anatomical Donors May 11.

They endowed students in four UMMC schools with the gift of learning, through dissection, the elaborate systems and mysteries of human anatomy.

The donors’ families and others were virtual witnesses to the commemoration, registering 290 views for an observance recorded online.

After a pandemic-imposed absence in 2020, the annual rite resumed and recognized donors who died last year and in 2019.

“While we acknowledge the unselfishness of the donor, we also recognize that this decision is not always an easy one for the surviving family members,” Woodward said in her welcoming remarks.

UMMC Chaplain Linda McComb prepares to lead online viewers in a moment of silences during a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Linda McComb, UMMC chaplain, prepares to lead online viewers in a moment of silence during the ceremony.

“And we thank them for carrying out the wishes of the donor in spite of their great sense of loss.”

In a prelude to the roll call, six students expressed their thanks as well.

Representing the School of Health Related Professions, Lydia Thompson, a first-year occupational therapy student cited the donors’ “noble sacrifice,” and saluted “the friends and family who brought meaning to their lives.”

Also from SHRP, Quentin Rouse, a second-year physical therapy student, mediated on the individual lives of the donors, who remain anonymous to those learned from them: “Whose shoulders did they cry on when everyone else left the room?”  

Caroline Mueller, fourth-year clinical anatomy student and class representative for UMMC School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, speaks during a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Caroline Mueller, a fourth-year clinical anatomy student and class representative for the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, speaks during the ceremony.

Mark Reliquias, a first-year School of Dentistry student, said the donors’ sacrifice marked “the end for some,” but, for students it was a beginning. “Thank you for your loved ones,” he said to the families. “We promise to never let you down.”

Moses Lam, a first-year student in the School of Medicine, said their silent teachers “continue to give even after life.” Addressing the loved ones watching, he said he was among the many who look forward to “the prospect of one day serving your families.”

Caroline Mueller, a fourth-year clinical anatomy student from the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, has done research on the reasons people give their bodies to science. Many, she found, “want to give others the opportunity for a better, healthier life.”

Ashton Church, a first-year biomedical sciences student, also from SGSHS, paid tribute to the donors and the “magnitude of your noble generosity” and to “a gift that has enriched our understanding of the human body.”

Conner Ball, a second-year UMMC medical student, sings "Amazing Grace" during a live stream ceremony of thanksgiving in memory of anatomical donors Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Conner Ball, a second-year UMMC medical student, sings "Amazing Grace" during the ceremony.

Offering a prayer of thanksgiving, Linda McComb, UMMC chaplain, reassured the families that “the legacy of their loved ones did not end in death.” She credited “the power of gratitude to give peace, strength and comfort.”

As Woodward noted, the Body Donation Program is based in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomical Sciences, whose chair, Dr. Allan Sinning, introduced the students offering the “roll call of heroes”: Kim Hoang, a second-year occupational therapy student; Quentin Rouse; Kate Anderson, a first-year dental student; Jacob Garrett, a second-year medical student; Caroline Mueller; and Ashton Church.

The voice of Conner Ball, a second-year medical student and recent “American Idol” contestant, and his acoustic guitar, thanked the donors with the song, “Amazing Grace.”

As Woodward explained, in normal times the Ceremony of Thanksgiving is held in the UMMC Cemetery, where the remains of the body donors are either buried or are returned to the family. “We have placed a monument in our cemetery in their perpetual memory,” she said.

“It is inscribed with these words of native Mississippian and noted physician-poet John Stone: ‘By their extraordinary gifts, these dead have taught the living how to touch. Through them, we touch the body of the world.’”


For more information about the Body Donation Program, call (601) 984-1649, email bodydonation@umc.edu, or visit the website.