First-year medical students (L-R) Scott Mathis, Ansih Patnaik and Catherine Chang ensemble perform a musical prelude for the Cadaver Memorial Service.
First-year medical students (L-R) Scott Mathis, Anish Patnaik and Catherine Chang ensemble perform a musical prelude for the Cadaver Memorial Service.

After the completion of the gross anatomy course where first-year medical students dissect a human cadaver, the students hold a memorial service to honor these bodies.

On Monday, Jan. 23, approximately 150 first-year medical students in the class of 2020 attended the annual Cadaver Memorial Service at McGovern Medical School to honor the individuals who donated their bodies to medical education and to mark the completion of the gross anatomy course.

“The Cadaver Memorial Service commemorates our rite of passage through anatomy lab and the people who donated their bodies for our education,” said Aditya Srinivasan, a first-year student who served as the class representative for the anatomy class and organizer of the student-led service. “It’s really fundamental to medicine because without knowing what’s inside a human, we can’t diagnose them, we can’t properly treat them.”

Class president Luke Kennedy shares his personal connection to McGovern's Willed Body Program.
Class president Luke Kennedy shares his personal connection to McGovern’s Willed Body Program.

President of the class of 2020 Luke Kennedy noted anatomy lab would not be possible without the donations of bodies and shared his personal connection to McGovern’s Willed Body Program.

“This memorial service means a lot to me because my grandfather will be donating his body to this program,” Kennedy said. “When I called him to let him know I was accepted to McGovern, he said, ‘Congratulations! Hey, if we time this right, you may be able to cut into me.’ At which I replied, there is no way that will happen, grandpa. He has mentioned the program several times since in our conversations which points to the aspect that this program truly means a lot to those that are donating their bodies.”

Gross anatomy class director Leonard Cleary, Ph.D., who serves as a distinguished teaching professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and director of the Human Structure Facility, said the service was similar to years past with a simple structure with the details changed to reflect the interests and talents of the first-year medical students. He says one of the strengths of this year’s program was first-year medical student Omar Alnatour who delivered a very unique and personal perspective on the anatomy class experience.

First-year medical student Omar Alnatour gives the student reflection at the Cadaver Memorial Service, Monday, Jan. 23.
First-year medical student Omar Alnatour gives the student reflection.

Alnatour shared what he learned most from the human body couldn’t be tested on a practical exam.

“Through our first incision in cutting through the skin, I was reminded that we must to be able to look past the different shades of melanin that constantly challenge our society to categorize us into groups that neglect the fact that we were all inherently created equal. And that beauty is every skin tone.

Through studying the heart, I was reminded that there is no room in it for hate and through studying the muscles that make up the shoulders and back, it was confirmed that hate is indeed far too heavy of a burden to bear. And for that, we should constantly strive to express as much love to one another as we can despite our differences of religion, race, culture, sexuality, and socioeconomic status.

Through studying the larynx and pharynx and the intricacies of our vocal anatomy, I was reminded that this anatomical blessing that we call our voice is not only a blessing but a responsibility. A responsibility we must use to speak up for those that have had theirs taken. Because if we, the students of the most humanitarian profession in the world, don’t then who will?

Though studying the muscles and bones that make up the feet I was reminded of the thousands of miles my parents trekked as refugees of war so that I can live a better life than they did. And I’m reminded that we each are the products of our parents sacrifices.

Through discovering an undetected metastatic cancer in my cadaver, I was reminded that we will come across people in our lives that are fighting battles that we may have no idea about and for that, we should constantly challenge ourselves to show the upmost kindness to one another.

And lastly, through the sacrifice each of our cadavers made, the greatest sacrifice of giving up your entire body so that it may benefit a person whom you’ve never met, I was reminded that we will always, always be best defined by what we are willing to do for those who can do nothing for us.

As I struggle to stitch the necessary words into sentences to express my immense gratitude to those that we memorialize on this day, I can only see it appropriate to conclude these remarks with a promise that I hope you all join me in. A promise to be the best physicians that we can be, a promise to continue to fill our hearts with as much compassion as we do our minds with knowledge, a promise to always be reminded that our responsibility towards alleviating human suffering extends far beyond the hospital walls, a promise to make proud all those who made sacrifices for us, and lastly a promise to be the change we wish to see in the world. Thank you.”
– Omar Alnatour, Student Reflection

First-year medical students light 43 individual candles during the candle-lighting ceremony to honor the 43 men and women who donated their bodies to science.
First-year medical students light 43 individual candles to honor the 43 men and women who donated their bodies to science.

For individuals interested in the Will Body Program at McGovern Medical School, please visit https://med.uth.edu/nba/willed-body-program/