Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

KU med students honor donors

September 17, 2008

More than 20 years ago Richard Chapman and his wife, Donna, made a decision that would not only affect their lives, but potentially the lives of thousands of people after their death.

While most people register to donate certain organs after they die, the Tonganoxie couple made arrangements to donate their whole bodies.

"She was more into it than I was, but it made sense to me so we both decided to do it," Chapman said about their decision to join the Kansas University Medical Center's Willed Body Program. "She was very thoughtful and was always thinking of other people. She knew this would help out the students in the study of the body."

Donna died in February of 2007 and her body was used by first-year medical students of the class of 2011, who would be studying anatomy in the fall.

The Chapmans, like thousands of other donors since the program's beginning around 108 years ago, have given their bodies to be studied by first-year medical students. To show their appreciation for such a noble gift, these next-generation healers held a special ceremony honoring the donors.

Friday afternoon, around 400 friends and family of the donors gathered inside Battenfeld Auditorium to watch as the second-year medical students paid tribute to those who gave up their bodies to be the students' first patients while they were in their first year of medical school.

Dale Abrahamson, professor and chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology said the yearly tribute was meant to honor the donors for their "selfless contribution," and to thank the families for honoring their loved ones' decisions and to help them understand the decisions they made.

"We hope that through our tribute today you will understand better about the importance of their gift and how they will go on and really continue to live in the lives of those that they treat," Abrahamson said.

During the program, which was created by now second-year students, speakers and students from the class of 2011 gave their thoughts and feelings about what the donors had done. They also gave a slide show presentation giving the various occupations of the donors.

Second-year student Jefferey Robinson said it was important for all of the class of 2011 to collectively thank the families and the people that donated their bodies.

"It's more touching just to share this expression of our gratitude," Robinson said. "This is an important point of reflection in our medical education. It gives us a chance to think about the decision that these people made in their lifetime. It's an incredibly important kind of educational piece."

Abrahamson said the school receives around 150 to 225 bodies a year.

The Medical Center is the sole program authorized in the sate of Kansas for the acceptance and use of human remains for education and research. While anatomical instruction is the main purpose of the program, Abrahamson said the bodies are also used to learn and design new surgical approaches or test new instruments before they are approved for use on live patents.

Once students are finished studying the bodies, the cadavers are cremated and either sent back to the family or buried in a group memorial in Lawrence.

Chapman attended the ceremony with his son. He said on Saturday that after learning that the donated bodies would be the students' first patients, he was even happier with his decision.

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