DPT Class of 2016 honors human donors in service of thanksgiving and farewell

On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, Doctor of Physical Therapy students said farewell to their non-living anatomy teachers, as they honored the lives of 13 men and women who donated their bodies to science.

The DPT students recently finished with their seven-month dissection-based human anatomy course that is taught in great part by non-living teachers. The DPT Class of ‘16 – joined by faculty, staff and the Rev. Jan Fuller – took part in the Anatomy Service of Thanksgiving and Farewell in the Sacred Space of the Numen Lumen Pavilion, which featured music, poems and reflections on the students’ experience working with these human donors at the Francis Center Human Anatomy Laboratory.

Associate Professor Janet Cope provided opening remarks. “Each person has their own reason for donating,” she said. “Some know that even in death they can still make a difference.”

Cope read excerpts from interviews she has had with people who are planning on whole body donation: “why not do something useful;” “if I can help someone become a better doctor, that is great;” “I think that students will come to know me, better than I know me;” “sometimes just showing up can make a difference, so I plan on showing up once I die.”

DPT students Colleen Lynott and Kelly Childress shared personal reflections based on their experience.

“To cope, I tried my best to see Mary more as a learning tool and less as a human being,” Lynott said. “But Mary refused to be seen as an anything other than what she was: a 92-year-old woman who donated her body to science so that students like me could further their education. The steadfast manner in which Mary refused to be reduced to an inanimate object gave me a new perspective on what it means to give. I began to emulate her altruism in my everyday life.

“All we knew about her when we met her was that she was 92 when she passed away, she had dementia and she was a writer,” Lynott added. “What they didn’t tell us, and what was perhaps the most relevant piece of information, was that at her core, Mary was a teacher. She showed me the complications of a possibly botched hip replacement. In doing so, she taught me how to recognize pain when I see it and to have compassion for things I may not fully understand.”

Childress read an essay she had written, titled “Earthly Body and Eternal Soul.”

“This week in my anatomy lab I have had the pleasure and been given the gift of exploring a human donor,” she said.” While literally and figuratively peeling back the layers of this donor it seemed to solidify our theory. There is no life, no feeling, and no thoughts. Simply the body is just a symbol, or a visual of a person we know.”

Kandra Selby and Marley Parsons offered comments drawn from their classmates while Kelly Clark read from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Lucas Boyd performed “Lullaby from the The Civil War Musical” during the ceremony, and Fuller shared some closing remarks.

A reception was held at the Gerry Francis Center following the service.