Local historian Alfred Southwick attended the recent annual Anatomical Gift Donors Memorial Service at UMass Medical School in honor of his late sister, one of the donors being honored by the School of Medicine Class of 2017. The annual ceremony is a remembrance and tribute to those who have contributed their bodies for medical research.
Southwick reflected on the meaningfulness of the ceremony to family members, the history of anatomical donations and their essential value for medical education in a column in the May 15 Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
“It was a touching occasion—a time for those who remembered the dead to form a bond with those young people who will be using those anatomical donations in their professional studies,” wrote Southwick. “I found it admirable that they treated those cadavers, not just as lifeless blocks of tissue, but with respect for what they had done, what they had been, what they had meant to somebody.”
Since 1970 UMass Medical School has managed the Anatomical Gift Program through which donors can bequeath their bodies to be used in medical education. The gift of one’s body for medical education, through which tomorrow’s doctors learn the structure of the human body and all its systems, is a special one that builds an educational foundation different from all others, and can be given regardless of a donor’s financial status.
“I am certain that she [Sarah] would have appreciated every bit of the ceremony,” Southwick wrote. “She would be delighted that, even in death, she was furthering the scientific enterprise and helping the medical training of young men and women who have dedicated their lives to better health and less pain for their fellow human beings.”