A gift to medical education

ACOM honors anatomical donors with memorial, space for reflection

Students at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine held a memorial service to recognize patients who donated their bodies to education.

As a medical student, your first patient experience isn’t during clinical rounds. Rather, it’s in your first year of medical school, during anatomical science dissection labs.

Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM) is dedicating a memorial to honor those who have gifted their bodies to medical education.

Hands-on dissections are a crucial part of medical education. Anatomical donors give students the experience to learn about the structures of the human body.

“We try to make sure students never forget that this was someone who decided to donate their body to their education and it needs to be appreciated. This is your first patient,” says Krissy Wood, coordinator of the Willed Body Program and anatomy and research labs at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.

During the dedication ceremony on March 9, students, family and friends of the deceased as well as  faculty and staff gathered to honor 25 anatomical donors.

The freestanding memorial with granite pillars, benches, foliage and stonework was designed as a space for reflection. The names of body donors who are not anonymous will be engraved on the structure to serve as a reminder of their selfless gift.

ACOM secured a grant from the Wiregrass Foundation to create the memorial and received matching funds from Southeast Alabama Medical Center.

“People look at this as an option to give back as they consider their end of life. We want to make sure the people who chose to donate to our program are treated with the utmost respect and dignity,” Wood says.

Anatomical donors typically come from within a 50- to 75-mile radius of the school. ACOM handles transportation and preparation of the body. Cremation remains are usually returned to families within  two years.

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