On Wednesday, May 15, medical students held a ceremony to honor those who have passed away and donated their bodies to medical education.

Jaime Rodriguez on violin at the 2019 Willed Body Memorial.First- and second-year medical students honored those who have donated their bodies to science during the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine’s first annual Willed Body Memorial Ceremony.

BCOM medical students learn human anatomy firsthand through the Gross Anatomy Lab, where students work with the bodies of individuals who donate their remains after passing.

“Today is about having a moment to be grateful and to self-reflect on what you’ve been given this past year,” said Associate Professor and Chair of Anatomy and Cell Biology Miriam Donohue, PhD, who opened the ceremony. “There was a moment where these donors made the choice to support your education, where they chose to be part of your experience. Today is about being grateful for the things we’ve been given.”

In their first year of medical school, BCOM students work with the remains of a donor for lessons in clinical human anatomy. The lab provides students the unique opportunity to learn about the structures of the human body and how they function. The knowledge and skills acquired through these examinations are an essential part of medical education.

Second-year medical student Dillon Murray speaks at the Willed Body Memorial.During the ceremony, five students shared written reflections, including poetry, on how the anatomy lab experience affected them.

“In the anatomy lab, people opened their bodies to us. They allowed us into their most private space and allowed us to learn details about them they might not have shared with anyone else,” said second-year medical student Dillon Murray. “The people who gave themselves to the anatomy lab provided me not just medical facts, but a respect for the human body that cannot be learned in a lecture or book.”

The ceremony closed with the song My Eyes Have Seen Holy, which was performed by violinist Jaime Rodriguez (’22), singer Giselle Irio(’21) and pianist and associate professor Jon Jackson, PhD.

After one to two years of study, all donors are cremated and the remains are returned to surviving family members. The BCOM Anatomical Gifts Program is directed by Dr. Jackson and is in partnership with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Lubbock, Texas) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Click here to watch a recording of the 2019 Willed Body Memorial Ceremony.