May 20, 2019

Students honor 234 lives at Body Bequest Program memorial service

students and crowd

The chapel at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Novi overflowed with Wayne State University medical students and the loved ones of the men and women who donated their bodies to the Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences Body Bequest Program for medical education.

students speaking
Emily Lau speaks at the memorial as Michael Moentmann and Alex Pietroski look on.

The students and families gathered in the space to celebrate the lives of 234 people at the 22nd memorial service of the program held at 11 a.m. May 17.The one-hour, minister-officiated service is held yearly to pay respects to the donors and includes the internment of their cremated remains. Donor families attend the service, which is organized by the Body Bequest Program’s Mortuary Supervisor Barbara Rosso-Norgan, B.S., M.S.L.

Richard Baker, M.D., vice dean for Medical Education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, spoke at the service, thanking the families in attendance and emphasizing how much their loved ones helped advance the practice of medicine through their generosity.

“Our School of Medicine, including our dedicated faculty and our wonderful physicians-in-training, who you see lining the walls of this room, owe these people and their families, you in the audience, a tremendous debt of gratitude,” Dr. Baker said.

“The people that we honor and remember today are a special breed. Estimates indicate that fewer than 20,000 Americans each year donate their bodies to medical training. Those who do so are laying the foundation to educate and save many lives,” he continued.

Four medical students – Bushra Fathima, Emily Lau, Michael Moentmann and Alex Pietroski – also spoke at the service about their experiences working with the donated bodies.

The Ultrasounds singing group is made up of medical students.

“Know that both you and your loved one were an integral part of our first patient experience. On behalf of all of the students of the Class of 2022, thank you for sharing your loved ones with us. Thank you for giving us the gift of experience, knowledge and collaboration. Thank you for giving us so many of the firsts of our medical career. Thank you for shaping us to become physicians with consideration, connection and, most important, compassion,” Lau said.

Michael Moentmann explained how impactful the donations were to the education of medical students and what a privilege it was to learn anatomy from an actual human body.

 “We had this opportunity because our donors believed in us enough to give us that opportunity. They knew it would enhance our education. They knew it would make us better physicians. They knew it would result in higher quality care for our patients. They wanted their final act to advance the future of medicine and I hope that our gratitude to them is apparent. I hope that our work in lab would have made them proud. And I hope that they would be proud of the physicians that we become,” Moentmann said.  

“I hope this memorial service brings you some closure and I hope that our future work as physicians honors the gift that your family members gave us,” he added.

Students from the School of Medicine's Ultrasounds acapella group also performed.

Vice Dean Richard Baker, M.D., addresses the hundreds of students, family members and friends who attended the memorial on May 17, 2019.

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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