Expressing sincerest gratitude for a selfless gift to medical education

May 02, 2023

dark haired woman leans down to place lit tealight candle on a table full of them, another woman waits behind her with her own table, projected in front of them is a 10th anniversary watercolor picture

Poignant and powerful, Quinnipiac’s 10th annual Ceremony of Gratitude expressed heartfelt appreciation to families and friends of loved ones who gave a selfless, essential gift to medical education as anatomical donors.

Co-sponsored by the School of Nursing, School of Health Sciences and the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, the April 30 ceremony on the North Haven campus opened with a moving candlelight procession filled with medical, nursing and health science students.

Jesse Gomes, director of operations for the Human Anatomy Laboratory and Director of the Anatomical Gift Program, welcomed donor families and friends on behalf of faculty, administration and students.

Gomes expressed Quinnipiac’s sincere gratitude for the contributions donor families have made to the program. In its first decade, the program has provided exceptional learning opportunities for hundreds of students across multiple disciplines who’ve gone on to become competent and skilled medical professionals.

“Although our students do not know your family members in life, the impact that they have on them will be lifelong. They are their first patient, their mentor, their silent teacher,” said Gomes. “We hope that the knowledge of our program’s success, as well as that of the students who have learned from your loved ones, will be a comfort to you.”

Medical students Sophia Smith, Phil Smit and Paulina Naser-Saravia shared reflections which included an original poem, “Anatomy of Generosity,” as well as unveiling the first of several student art pieces created for the ceremony.

Smith spoke of her own experience, at 16, attending a similar ceremony honoring her grandparents’ selfless donation; and wondering if the medical students would appreciate those she loved. She said thoughtful words shared by a grateful medical student during that ceremony put her mind at ease.

“My classmates and I can only imagine how special your loved ones were to you and to this world,” said Smith. “But just by the simple fact of the decision that they made at the end of their lives to be here, I can say that I have no doubt that they were givers, teachers and mentors, with incredible capacity for trust and for hope. They believed in the future and what the next generation has to offer for our world. And looking out at all of you, I can say that they loved deeply, and were loved back.”

Students of the pathologists’ assistant program were represented by Erica Levin and Allison Janson. Janson also served as the event’s master of ceremonies.

Levin presented an original painting, “The Vessel.”

“The gift your loved ones gave us is beyond words. We all received a foundation for knowledge that will propel us for helping the sick, helping families, and being a voice for those who fell quiet,” said Levin.

Janson presented a video montage of students sharing their gratitude and impactful learning experiences. It opened with a message of thanks from Gisela Rodriguez, co-program director and clinical assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences.

“It’s truly a special gift that our donors give. Thank you for your support in teaching anatomy. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to teach the labs, and to learn from your loved ones,” said Rodriguez.

The ceremony was punctuated with a beautiful dance performance, given by physician assistant student Pratibha Thippa. The classical Bharatanatyam dance evoked Shiva, a Hindu god essential to the maintenance of the cycle of existence.

Physician's assistant student Edwin Benitez contributed a painting entitled, “The Field of Transcendence.” Featuring butterflies, the acrylic pour abstract represents rebirth, renewal, and the myriad of students and patients benefiting from donors’ generosity.

Members of the occupational therapy program presented “The Tree of Life,” filled with individual leaves sharing words of gratitude penned by students across the program.

Physical therapy students shared an original poem and reflective artwork which honored donors as the silent teacher.
“Silent teacher is a term embedded in the language of this program, and it is how we like to think of our anatomy donors,” said student Kate Duffy. “In a world where we often take our bodies for granted, the silent teacher reminds us of the wonder and beauty that lie within us. It is a reminder that we are all more than just flesh and bone. We are complex and intricate beings, deserving of the utmost care and attention.”

On behalf of the Quinnipiac student body, Janson concluded the ceremony with the hope the gathering had served to honor and memorialize donors and connect students with those who had shared their lives.

“I believe that with the knowledge and skills we’ve gained from our donors, we’ve also been gifted the opportunity to see humanity in a new light. Your loved ones have taught us some of the most valuable lessons. They have taught us about selflessness, empathy, compassion, and courage. Their purpose in life has stretched beyond their time on this earth and will continue to impact all of us and our future patients for years to come,” said Janson.

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