On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine MD students, faculty and staff gathered together with the families and friends of more than 70 anatomy donors to celebrate those who donated their bodies to further the education of future generations of health professionals. The memorial service, held every June at Pinecrest Remembrance Services, is a public acknowledgement for the families and friends of those who gave their bodies to the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine.
One of the memorial service’s annual speakers, Cathy Delany, has been intimately familiar with the Faculty’s anatomy donation program for many years now. Both of her parents donated their bodies to the University, and she and her family plan to follow suit.
“The memorial service is so special. So many emotions come back,” says Cathy. “We are surrounded by others who have lived a similar experience. What our family members did is such a generous thing. They had other choices for their bodies, but they chose to donate them. Every year I speak at the memorial service to thank the families, the students, and the University.”
Approximately 200 people attended this year’s memorial service, a semi-spiritual ceremony that featured music, songs and thanks from the MD students and faculty, as well as words from family members like Cathy. All of the donors’ names are read aloud during the ceremony, followed by a moment of silence at the University graveside marker.
“The memorial experience is so important and the students and faculty speak so eloquently. It’s nice to hear them and to see that they understand what a gift it is that the donors have given,” said Cathy.
Dr. Maxwell Hincke, professor within the Faculty’s Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine (CMM), and Head of CMM’s Division of Clinical and Functional Anatomy confirms that there is never a shortage of MD students volunteering to speak or help at the annual memorial service. “Many of our MD students attend to participate and pay tribute to those they may consider to be their first patients,” he said.
Body donation has a very strong impact on the Faculty’s students, and the Continuing Medical Education program. Dr. Hincke explains that “medicine is all about treating human patients, and in terms of skill development and learning human anatomy, nothing can ever replace a human body. It is so important for the students to see, feel, and understand the human body, and it is thanks to the donors that students are able to experience that firsthand. The memorial service is the perfect time for them to pay their respect and give thanks to the families and the donors themselves.”
“It’s a nice day to celebrate my parents,” agreed Cathy. “This day celebrates their amazing gift and their life.”