Elon University launches Anatomical Gift Program

The new program housed in the School of Health Sciences will be a valuable resource to students in graduate and undergraduate health sciences programs.

Elon University has launched an Anatomical Gift Program to serve as a resource for students in undergraduate science courses and students in Elon’s School of Health Sciences as they learn about the human body and train to be physical therapists and physician assistants.

The new program, headed by Director Dianne Person, will provide members of the local community and others throughout the state the opportunity to consider anatomical donation as a contribution to educating the next generation of health care providers. Person, who joined Elon last year from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said the program will provide an ethical, moral and self-sufficient future for anatomy education at Elon.

“Donors who give their consent will benefit by providing a gift that will leave a lasting impression upon the education and careers of students in healthcare education and biological health sciences at Elon University,” Person said. “The benefit to Elon University students will be passed on to their patients through the healing and comfort they may provide because of the donors’ noble contribution.”

On Friday, March 24, the program will host its first “signing ceremony” at the Gerald L. Francis Center, the home to the School of Health Sciences, to honor those who have already registered as donors. The ceremony will feature comments from Elon faculty, staff and students about the impact the new Anatomical Gift Program will have on those studying to become medical professionals.
A key component of health care education is the opportunity to dissect and study the human body. Clinical anatomy courses for Elon’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program and the Physician Assistant Studies master’s program, along with undergraduate biology courses, all rely upon human bodies, obtained primarily through private donation, to help deliver this invaluable knowledge and experience.

“The Anatomical Gift Program is integral to our commitment to provide a distinctive and exceptional educational experience to our students,” said Elon University Provost Steven House. “Elon is grateful for the generosity of all donors that furthers the education of Elon students and advances the training of skilled and caring medical professionals.”
Janet Cope, professor of physical therapy education, has taught anatomy for more than 20 years and seen firsthand the impact that human donors can have on students. Experiences within the anatomy laboratory remain with students throughout their healthcare careers, helping them develop a deep sense of responsibility and gratitude, she said.
“In essence, the human donor is the first patient for our students and an invaluable teacher,” said Cope, an anthropologist and clinical anatomist. “With these gifts, donors contribute to the education of future health care providers, many of whom will practice in our local community. At Elon, we are appreciative of the educational opportunities donors provide to our students.”
Through Elon’s Anatomical Gift Program, any competent person at least 18 years of age can arrange to donate his or her body for use after death for educational purposes, provided they meet particular criteria for donation. For example, bodies of persons with infectious diseases are not accepted. Potential donors complete a General Information & Donor Consent Form that’s witnessed by two people and returned to the university.

Anatomical donors will not be available for traditional funeral services. A donor’s family may hold a memorial or a religious service at their convenience without the body present. Arrangements and costs for such services are the responsibility of the family and in their discretion. Upon completion of studies, the anatomical donor will be cremated at the expense of the Anatomical Gift Program and the ashes will be made available to be returned to the family.

For more information about the Elon University Anatomical Gift Program, visit or call (336) 278-6564.