First Anatomy Memorial Ceremony held on campus


anatomy color

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and Oakland University’s Physical Therapy Program held its first Anatomy Memorial Ceremony April 11 to honor body donations.


Honoring the gifts 

The performers at the ceremony were chosen through an application process.

Before each performance, a white rose was placed in a basket to commemorate the bodies donated to Oakland’s program.

“What was interesting is the way everyone chose to reflect really reflected them as people,” said Meaghan Walters, coordinator for student activities.

The student-driven ceremony provides medical students, physical therapy students and faculty members a chance to reflect and honor the donations made to science.

Through the Gross Anatomy and Cadaver Labs, Oakland students are given the opportunity to experience first-hand what they see in their text books.


Facing death

“I was changed after 30 years of dissection. You’re never the same after you dissect a human,” said Mark Hankin, professor of biomedical sciences.

Joe Tilchen, first year medical student and a member of the AMC Planning Committee, reflected on his experience.

“This is a human, just missing the life that animates everything and brings things into motion,” Tilchen said.

Tilchen said for the first several weeks of class he encouraged classmates to take the lead. He didn’t touch the body for the first few weeks.

“You’ve been to funerals a few times by the time you get to your mid 20s or 30s. It’s always an experience where there’s a body in the room, but you never want to acknowledge that it’s there,” Tilchen said. “When you come into the lab, they’re naked. There’s nothing between you and them. The only thing missing is their soul. There is still so much of who they were laid out there before you. It’s outrageously humbling.”

The students spend their semester learning from their body donors.

“I feel like I have even more respect for the donations and the cadaver process as a whole than I did coming into this, and I do feel more closure and better about it now that I was able to memorialize them,” said Megan Desmet, physical therapy student and member of the AMC planning committee.

Walters hopes this ceremony allowed students to pause and reflect on how to deal with death.

“Most of my students are very young, so, death seems far away. As much as they want to bring life, they’re going to have to learn how to deal with death as physicians,” Walters said.


Plans for the future

Oakland is planning on continuing the conference.

Although the program is just beginning, they have high hopes for what is to come.

According to Hankin, the program is expected to grow.

Hankin, who was the director of a program in Toledo, said that last year their AMC brought in over 400 family members, plus students and staff.

Walters would like to see the program grow to the point where the families of the donor are invited, as well.