University honors human donors in special ceremony

May 04, 2017

4/29/17-Quinnipiac University Ceremony of Gratitude at the Quinnipiac University of North Haven Campus

Blanca Reyes dedicated her life to the teaching and study of science. That’s why, when faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis, the 61-year-old anatomy professor decided to donate the ultimate gift to the field she loved: her body.

Our Anatomical Gift Program, now in its fourth year, acquires human donations for the university. It adds a dynamic layer to anatomical study, allowing students to determine for themselves what a cause of death may have been, and sometimes discover things that a coroner may have even missed.

“We are one of only three universities in the state with a program like this,” said Jesse Gomes, assistant director of the Anatomical Gift Program. “It is truly unique.”

For her contribution, Reyes was honored along with 25 other donors at Quinnipiac’s Annual Ceremony of Gratitude on Saturday. The ceremony brought students and faculty together with donor family members to celebrate the generous gifts their loved ones had given.

“The donors are such an important part of our students’ educations,” said biology professor Dawn Colomb-Lippa. “The Ceremony of Gratitude is a meaningful way for students and professors alike to thank these selfless strangers.”

Donations like Reyes’ are critical to Quinnipiac’s programs, which require 80 donors a year to satisfy teaching needs. They must sometimes be borrowed, leased or purchased elsewhere, which can become quite costly.

“It’s big when we get someone from Connecticut like Blanca, who donates right to Quinnipiac,” Gomes said. “Not only is there no expense to us, but no expense to the family either.”

Reyes’ family, several of whom flew in from Puerto Rico to attend the ceremony, expressed their deep gratitude to Quinnipiac for honoring Reyes’s wishes to donate, as well as for ensuring that they’d still be able to hold a memorial service for her.

“We’ve made the arrangements to deliver Blanca’s ashes to her family,” Gomes said. “This is common practice with many of our donor’s families.”

Quinnipiac’s Anatomical Gift Program has continued to grow thanks to the efforts of Gomes and his team. They have been tireless in spreading the program’s message to the public.

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