University of Michigan medical students host memorial to honor those who gave their bodies for scientific research
BY RONALD AHRENS / ANNARBOR.COM
September 16, 2009
About 350 students in lab coats from the University of Michigan Medical School hosted a memorial service Wednesday to say thank you to families and friends of people whose bodies were given to the school’s anatomical donations program.
An annual tradition that dates back to at least the 1950s, the service at Washtenong Memorial Park in the Fairview Cemetery allows students to see anatomical dissection as an important part of their medical education. It also reassures loved ones of those who died that their contributions help scientific progress.
“The more that I’m exposed to the hospital and spending the summer there, what we’ve learned in anatomy really does stick - it’s tangible,” said Cordelie Witt, a second-year student from Kirkland, Wash.
Some students volunteered to guide cars into the park’s Garden of Memories, while others handed out carnations at the reception tent. In the main tent, a student quintet played Mozart before the service, which began with a greeting from program director Thomas Gest. A 20-member student chorus sang “Amazing Grace” before brief talks by four current students and a powerful speech by Dr. Karen Fauman, a 2004 U-M medical school graduate.
Mark McLane traveled from Newport News, Va., to remember his father, Lincoln, and mother, Jeannette. Lincoln McLane’s remains were donated for anatomical study in 2003, and Jeanette’s were given this year.
McLane, who grew up in Fenton, said his parents signed up long ago for the anatomical donations program, which annually receives about 300 bodies.
“It helps to ease your mind,” he said of the memorial service.
McLane’s niece, Christine Duffy, of Lansing, echoed his sentiments, saying, “It’s interesting to hear how their bodies were used.”
Dan and Jen Lancour drove six hours from Manistique in the Upper Peninsula to attend the program. The Lancours lost their son Charlie, who was born prematurely in August. Struggling to find words after Fauman’s speech about the advances in pediatric cases, the couple agreed that the memorial was “very nice.”
Other folks came from nearby. Jose Jovel, Olga Moya and Fred and Hope Amador drove from Pontiac to honor the memory of Arthur Amador, who died in August 2008 at the age of 55.
Terry Pitts of Jackson attended in memory of his uncle, Robert Bradshaw, who died June 15, 2008. Pitts’ mother Joyce, who was Bradshaw’s sister-in-law, came along and found herself reflecting on what a rough spring and summer it had been. Since April 9, her husband died, then her cat followed. After that, she said, someone broke into her house in Litchfield.
The memorial’s printed program offered the poignant translation of a Latin maxim: “This is the place where death rejoices in coming to the aid of life.”