Interfaith Service Coordinated by First-Year Medical Students Honors Those Who Donate Their Bodies to SLU
Students at Saint Louis University honored those who donated their bodies for medical education with an interfaith memorial service Friday, Nov. 11.
The service is put together by first-year medical students, led by John Martin, Ph.D., Dan Daly, D.C., Ph.D., and Aidan Ruth, Ph.D. of the Center for Anatomical Science and Education (CASE); and Erin Fitzpatrick, Campus Ministry.
The students are involved in every aspect of the service - from choosing and performing the music, creating the program artwork and picking the flowers used in the flower procession. A mix of first-year medical students, graduate students and Allied Health students also serve during the memorial ushers and greeters.
Student Stanley Wu, in his reflection, thanked the families in attendance for the gifts of knowledge, humanity and selflessness their loved ones gave to him and his fellow SLU students.
Will Rudder used his reflection to quantify a donor’s gift for the families. Rudder cited a 2018 study which found the average doctor sees 20 patients a day. He said, assuming the medical students work 50 weeks a year, he and his 181 classmates could each see around 7,000 patients a year.
“That’s 1,274,000 patients in a single year,” he said. “That’s how many lives your relative will help us to treat in a one year. Your relatives are touching the lives of people they will never know.”
Carley Olsen talked about how the seeing the bright pink nail polish worn by her body donor connected her to a childhood babysitter and how she would spend time each week polishing the older woman’s hands.
“I’d paint her nails red, purple and blue, but her favorite was the bright pink because it got her the most compliments at church,” she said. “Life is made up of these most precious moments. Your family members have shown us how fragile and precious life is and we fully appreciate the gift they have given us.”
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, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints traditions.
Gift Body Program
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. Between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022, 372 people donated their bodies to SLU.
Saint Louis University’s Gift Body Program is committed to excellence in research and education. The study of human anatomy has long been and continues to be essential to training physicians, physical therapists and other health science professionals.
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.