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First-Year Medical Students Honor Body Donors with Interfaith Service

by Maggie Rotermund on 11/05/2021
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Maggie Rotermund
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Medical students at Saint Louis University honored those who donated their bodies for medical education with an interfaith memorial service Friday.

Gift Body Service

 Family attendance at this year's gift body memorial service was limited to adhere to SLU's pandemic protocols. Photo by Maggie Rotermund. 

The service is put together by first-year medical students, led by John Martin, Ph.D., Dan Daly, D.C., Ph.D., Aidan Ruth, Ph.D. and Lisa David of the Center for Anatomical Science and Education (CASE).

Student musicians chose the music and performed each piece. Student artists submitted artwork for the service’s bulletin and the M1s chose the flower that they used in the flower procession. 

First-year medical students, graduate students and Allied Health students served as ushers and greeters. Six students gave personal reflections. 

Kaylah Pinkney, a first-year medical student spoke of her own loss of a loved one and how she would use the combined lessons of her loss and her training in gross anatomy to honor their time with hers. 

“Having gone through 11 weeks of anatomy, 11 weeks of spending hours with all the donors, I now know what word I would use - time,” said Pinkney. “I intend to use this time wisely to honor your loved one’s decision to the fullest and in the most respectful way. I will carry what I learned from them to care for my patients throughout my medical career.”

The service, held at St. Francis Xavier College Church, honors all the faith traditions represented in the medical school class. This year’s service included prayers from the Catholic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traditions.

David Suwalsky, S.J., vice president for Mission and Identity at Saint Louis University, opened and closed the service with prayers.

Each year, people donate their bodies to SLU School of Medicine’s Gift Body Program through the Center for Anatomical Science and Education to educate medical students, allied health students and residents. In the past year, 287 people donated their bodies to SLU.

Twice a year, ashes are buried at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery, 7030 Gravois Ave. A graveside service is conducted by the medical school campus minister and attended by CASE faculty and staff. There is one common grave marker at the site with the following inscription: “Saint Louis University and its students gratefully acknowledge the charity of those buried here who gave their remains for the advancement of medical science.”

Those interested in learning more about the gift body program can call 314-977-8027.


Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.