University to host first Anatomy Memorial Ceremony

Oakland University will host its first Anatomy Memorial Ceremony April 11 from 6 to 7 p.m.

The ceremony was created to honor those who have donated their bodies to science.

Exploring the labs

According to Dr. Mark Hankin, professor of biomedical sciences, these donations provide students with hands-on learning, as well as the opportunity to take their studies beyond the photos in their textbooks.

“Learning anatomy through the dissection of a cadaver (i.e., a real human body) is a defining experience for students in medical school,” Hankin said. “It is a traditional rite of passage and medical students know they are on their way for real in becoming a doctor when they take — and pass — anatomy.”

Megan Desmet, a physical therapy student, said students learn about everything underneath the skin, and this is a chance for them to take everything they learn and get hands-on experience.

“When we’re working on people, we make the connection of when we had the muscle in your hand it just makes you a better clinician,” Desmet said.

Desmet said this is her first year in physical therapy school, and gross anatomy has made a huge impact on her college career.

“It’s a very intense experience because you walk into this lab and there are around 10 to 12 bodies out on gurneys, and they look just like you and me,” Desmet said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can’t get at every school. If you ever get the opportunity to take it — take it.”

The cadaver dissections made in class allow students to observe the individuality of each body and give them a visual understanding of the body.

“Many medical students come to appreciate the cadaver as their first patient, many encounter death first-hand for the first time and, in doing so, develop a better understanding it as a part of life,” Hankin said.

Donation process

The decision to donate your body to science includes filling out consent forms, keeping a copy of those forms in your records and sharing your decision to donate with your family members.

“If you asked me that before having a cadaver lab I would have said no,” Desmet said in regard to donating her body. “After realizing what an intense learning experience it is, it’s something you’ll never forget and use in your practice every day.

It’s a tough choice to make, because your family has to be okay with it too. “

The ceremony

Hankin and Meaghan Walters, coordinator for student activities at Oakland, are working together to bring the first memorial ceremony to campus.

“At Oakland, cadavers have been used for teaching in many courses, so establishing a tradition of a memorial service to honor individuals who donated their bodies has wider meaning than only for the medical school,” Hankin said.

Walters said she was excited to learn the inner workings of this ceremony and has relied on the expertise of many individuals, most notably Dr. Hankin.

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

“Honoring body donors is one way to say thank you to those who made such a selfless gift,” Hankin said. “It also provides a sense of closing the circle for the students, even allowing them to mourn, particularly for the donor they had the opportunity to dissect.”

Throughout the ceremony, there will be spotlight speakers, student reflections and some students will be offering their gratitude through music or poetry.

Either a candle ceremony or a flower ceremony will take place to honor each of the bodies donated to Oakland’s science program.