Commemorating the ultimate gift to medical research

The ninth annual Ceremony of Gratitude gave medical, nursing and health science students the opportunity to thank friends and families of those who gave the ultimate gift, anatomical donors.

A candlelight procession opened the ceremony, a tribute to the generosity of donors and their kin. Jesse Gomes, director of operations for the Human Anatomy Laboratory and Director of the Anatomical Gift Program, began the programming, co-sponsored by the School of Nursing, School of Health Sciences and the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.

“While the work we do throughout the year to support our students is important, today is equally important. We are here to thank you for your contributions, your time, your loved ones and your loved one’s donations. This selfless gift helps a variety of programs across our institution,” said Gomes. “Although our students didn’t know the donors in life, their impact will be lifelong. The donors are the first patient, a mentor and a silent teacher.”

Kayley Cote ’22 presented a word cloud created by physical therapy students.

“We all wanted to thank you for the most selfless gift of your loved ones. We attempted to describe the experience with a word cloud,” she said. “It’s very challenging to sum up a profound experience in one word, but it helped us to all reflect on how grateful we are to you.”

Claire Lapaan ‘22 shared a photo of Ukrainian Easter Eggs created by a fellow nurse anesthesia student.

“The eggs are a symbol of gratitude. The gloved hands represent students who gained priceless knowledge, and flower petals represent the application of knowledge in multiple aspects of our future careers,” said Lapaan. “The extensive roots show how we are guided by foundational lessons we’ve gained from our donors. The faded hand represents our donors, our greatest teachers.” 

She then read a letter of gratitude written by a Case Western University student.

Liza Landry ’22 delivered a moving performance, accompanying stunning vocals on the keyboard as she sang the Beatles’ "Yesterday" and "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.

Stephanie David ’23 shared a collage assembled by members of the physician assistant program. Medical pictures were combined to depict a body, and students and faculty wrote messages of gratitude around the subject.

“The knowledge you’ve given us will last a lifetime, and no model will ever match this. I will honor your legacy in every patient encounter,” said David.

Olivia Kelly ’22 shared an evocative poem about working with the donors. The Archaeology of Anatomy leaped between the ruins of Pompeii and the contemporary laboratory, granting listeners an especially vivid picture of her experiences.

Students from the pathologist assistants program put together a video with personal messages of thanks for donors and their loved ones. Members of the occupational therapy program assembled an art piece of leaves inscribed with words of gratitude and shared a video of the piece’s construction.

Jennifer McHale ’23 closed the ceremony with a letter she wrote to the anatomical donor she practiced on. Her sentiments reflected the feelings of gravity and gratitude palpable throughout the presentations.

“Whenever I think about you, I think about the bonds created because of you. You made me admit my weakness and challenge my strengths. You taught me the value of sacrifice, generosity and selflessness. You are not my first patient, but my greatest teacher,” she said.

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