June 18, 2023

Body Bequest Program memorial service honors 256 ‘first patients’ who donated bodies to science

Wayne State University School of Medicine students observe the memorial service held for their "first patients" - the cadavers they dissected in Gross Anatomy lab.

Wayne State University School of Medicine students and faculty joined families of those who donated their bodies for medical education in tribute and gratitude at this year’s Body Bequest Memorial Program, held June 2 at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Novi.

The memorial recognized 256 people who completed their role in the education of thousands of students and doctors, including as a “first patient” for WSU medical students as part of the Medical Gross Anatomy course, which offers a full cadaver dissection experience to first-year medical students.

Dean Wael Sakr, M.D., speakers at the memorial.
Dean Wael Sakr, M.D., speakers at the memorial.

Vice Dean for Medical Education Richard Baker, M.D.; Professor of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences Paul Walker, Ph.D., who directs the Medical Gross Anatomy course; School of Medicine Dean Wael Sakr, M.D.; and Body Bequest Program Manager Barbara Ross-Norgan also spoke at the event.

“The gift that you and your loved ones have bestowed upon Wayne State goes far beyond the walls of Scott Hall and the medical school,” Rosso-Norgan said. “Your loved ones have helped to shape the physicians, the physician assistants, the physical and occupational therapists, nurses, pathologist assistants and countless other allied health professionals. Students at Wayne State, Oakland University, Andrews University, Concordia University, the University of Detroit Mercy, Alma College, Adrian College, University of Michigan Flint, Michigan State University and various Detroit hospitals have all benefitted. They have taught thousands of students, and they will never be forgotten.”

WSU is one of only a few medical schools that continue to use cadavers in teaching. Wayne State physicians-in-training and graduates count the experience, and the learning communities they share their gross anatomy experience with, as one of the most important experiences in medical school.

Students were greatly involved in the day’s events.

Speakers included second-year medical students Alyssa Rogers and Joseph Wun, who shared their thoughts on their first patient and how the experience has shaped their medical education journey. As part of the ceremony, second-year medical students also took turns reading the names of the deceased. Fourth-year student Dominic Alessio-Bilowus and third-year student Arielle Wenokur performed a duet on cello and violin to start the service.

The School of Medicine’s a capella group, The Ultrasounds, sang “Lullaby (Good Night, My Angel)” by Billy Joel during the service. Soloist Melissa Elmali closed the event with “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna.

For more information on the Body Bequest Program, contact Rosso-Norgan at brosso@med.wayne.edu

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