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DPT Class of '11 honors human donors in memorial service

DPT candidates on Tuesday said their farewells as they honored the lives of 10 men and women who donated their bodies to science and who, for the past seven months, served as “teachers” to Class of 2011 students studying anatomy as part of their doctoral program at Elon University.

The class – joined by faculty, staff and even a few relatives of some of the deceased – took part in the Anatomy Memorial Service in Whitley Auditorium, which included musical duets and public reflections on students’ experience working with donated bodies in a McMichael Science Building basement lab.

The class finished with the human donors last week and the bodies of “John,” “Dixie,” “Herman” and “Mabel,” among others, are in the process of being returned to their families. DPT candidates Andrea Attorri, Danielle Pike, Scott Rytter, Matt Tracey and Jenna Valaer all offered comments drawn from their classmates and read aloud from a podium in the middle of the stage.

The Class of 2011 will plant a tree this fall outside the McMichael Science Building in dedication to the human donors. Tracey shared with those in attendance that the tree “will serve as a symbol of our donor’s ongoing life as the tree grows and flourishes.”

Left to right: DPT candidates Andrea Attorri, Scott Rytter, Matt Tracey (at podium), Jenna Valaer and Danielle Pike offered reflections as part of the service.

“Our donors made the choice to teach even past death and for that they still live on,” he said. “We feel that what this tree symbolizes will reflect these teachings.”

Flute and guitar duets complemented the ceremony. Janet Cope, a clinical anatomist and anthropologist in the Department of Physical Therapy Education, provided her own observations and words of wisdom for students.

“Each donor has his or her own reason for donating. Some know that even in death they can still make a difference. They understand that the physical self can still be used after the soul has left the body,” Cope said. “Some have been touched by a medical professional. Some have faced death on more than one occasion and felt grateful for a second chance. Some donate because it is a family tradition.

Katelyn Thurow (left) and Tracy Vincent performed a flute duet to open the service.

“Some hope that students like you will learn from them. Learn everything you can do that you might someday help a patient in his or her time of uncertainty or vulnerability … Ten had given themselves as a gift. They gave not knowing any of us and yet they trusted that we would take care, respect and understand their vulnerabilities.”

A reception was held at the McMichael Science Building following the service.


DPT students Greg Chrest and Kenny Lynnes perform Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" tribute during the July 21 Anatomy Memorial Service for the DPT Class of 2011.
Eric Townsend,
7/21/2009 4:40 PM