Students honor 94 lives at Body Bequest Program memorial service

May 12, 2017

Rainy skies on May 5 couldn’t keep more than 290 people from attending the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s 20th memorial service commemorating 94 men and women who donated their bodies to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology’s Body Bequest Program for medical education.

(Click here for more information about the Body Bequest Program).

The event was held at 11 a.m. inside the chapel at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Novi, where the School of Medicine has a dedicated area for the Body Bequest Program.

The one-hour, minister-officiated service is held yearly to pay respects to the donors, and includes the interment of their cremated remains. Donor families attended the service, which is organized by the Body Bequest Program’s Mortuary Supervisor Barbara Rosso-Norgan, B.S., M.S.L.

First-year medical students served as pallbearers and ushers, and read the names of those being remembered. Students from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the School of Medicine spoke at the service about their experiences working with the donated bodies, including Class of 2020 medical student Anthony Lemieux.

“As many of my classmates can attest to, it was sometimes difficult to remain in touch with the humanistic aspects of medicine throughout the course of the year, what with our heads being stuck in books memorizing seemingly tedious facts most of the time. However, anatomy lab, along with the First Patient Project assignments we completed (for it), helped us keep proper perspective on our commitment to help others,” he said. “We met with classmates and spoke about what it meant that these individuals donated so much to our education, what we would think if our family members did the same, and if we would ever personally donate ourselves. These conversations were a breath of fresh air that brought us together in an emotional and philosophical way that our basic sciences courses could not.”

His Class of 2020 classmate John Condello also spoke. “Before we were ready to be given the opportunity to serve the living, we had first been entrusted with this honor and privilege. It was an intensely humbling experience for all of us, and it underscored the importance of what we are learning,” he said. “We will constantly strive to repay their contribution, and we will forever carry our memories of them with us.”

Students from the School of Medicine’s Ultra Sounds acapella group also performed.

“The Ultra Sounds were spot on and fantastic as always. There were only five of them, but they commanded the audience,” Rosso-Norgan said.

The rain allowed more family members an opportunity to interact with the students who attended.

“This year, because there was so much rain, we didn’t all go in procession over to the grave site. Some of us ventured over, but the majority stayed in the chapel,” Rosso-Norgan added. “This allowed many more people an opportunity to speak with the students. I encouraged the students to talk with family members, and I believe many of them did. There was more fellowship because of the rain.”

Donations to the Body Bequest Program are used for several programs and courses at WSU, including medical student courses, Continuing Medical Education, Biomedical Engineering, Emergency Medicine, Mortuary Science, the Nurse Anesthetist program, Physician Assistant program and Physical and Occupational Therapist program.

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