A priceless gift of teaching and learning

‘Thank you,’ said UND to the families, as the University honored people whose body donations have helped train medical and health-sciences students

Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

When Autumn grieves, she bows her head, so rainbow tears fall gently on her leaf bed.
— Angie Weiland-Crosby

Rainbow tears and real tears alike fell Friday, as UND hosted an outdoor service at Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Forks to honor people who donated their bodies to the University’s medical education programs.

Family members of the donors were invited, as were the faculty, staff and students of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. And in all, some 250 people attended the service, which was held by the School’s plot at the cemetery and beneath an October canopy of lemon- and rust-colored leaves.

Once every three years, UND holds a memorial service to honor people who’ve deeded their bodies to help train medical and other health-sciences students. This year’s service took place Oct. 1 in Memorial Cemetery in Grand Forks. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Great gratitude

“Many of us chose to enter the field of teaching because of the importance of educating students and the desire to help them be ready to benefit our society,” said Mandy Meyer, associate professor of Occupational Therapy and Biomedical Sciences and director of the School’s Deeded Body Program, at the gathering.

“Today, we come here to recognize and show great gratitude toward a group of men and women who also made a conscious decision to enter the teaching profession.”

These individuals — the people who donated their bodies to aid medical education — “became some of the most powerful instructors in very rigorous academic programs designed to help our aspiring health care providers learn the intricacies of the human body,” Meyer continued.

Donors to UND’s Deeded Body Program also are teachers, and the students who learn anatomy through each donor’s gift remember the lessons for a lifetime, said Mandy Meyer, associate professor of Occupational Therapy and Biomedical Sciences and director of the School’s Deeded Body Program, at the gathering. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

“By giving of themselves literally, the donors allowed our students to gain access to direct observation of the human body. And that’s one of the best ways to learn.”

The School conducts the ceremony once every three years to inter the cremated remains of donors who’ve chosen to be interred at the School’s plot. Marking the location is the School’s 6-foot-tall headstone, which bears the initials NDSM, a stylized caduceus — the symbol of medicine — and the inscription, “In memory of those who gave their body to medical science.”

Claire Mellema (shown here) and Sidni Kast, both physical therapy students at UND’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences, provided musical accompaniment to Friday’s Deeded Body Program interment and memorial service. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Meaning and purpose

Twice during the service, UND Physical Therapy student Claire Mellema performed on the oboe, her solos lingering around the ceremony and blessing it like wafts of incense. At another point, Mellema’s fellow physical therapy student Sidni Kast sang “What a Wonderful World,” then performed on keyboard while Father Luke Meyer of St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center read the names of the 48 donors.

The names can be found below.

When it came time for her to speak, Meghan Rodriquez, a UND graduate who is an assistant teaching professor of Anatomy and Histology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, told a personal story about her late brother, John, and his struggle with psoriatic arthritis. John developed the chronic, inflammatory disease of the joints in childhood, and it meant for him a lifetime of pain, Rodriquez said: “I remember having to be extremely careful not to hurt him, just when we would help him put on his socks.”

Most donors give their bodies to science for one key reason: to help and be of service to others, said UND graduate Meghan Rodriquez, assistant teaching professor of Anatomy and Histology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

But before John died, he decided to donate his body to a medical research organization called Science Care, Rodriquez said. According to John, if doctors could learn even one thing from his body about his disease, and if that research could help even one person, then “it meant that there was a reason for everything,” Rodriquez said.

In particular, it meant there was a reason for the arthritis that had disabled him. Moreover, “the thought of helping improve another person’s life brought meaning and purpose to John’s life,” she said.

Of course, everyone has their own reasons for choosing to donate, Rodriquez continued. “But I believe most people make that choice for a reason similar to my brother’s: to improve the lives of others.

“And I know that’s why my husband and I are going to donate our bodies, too.”

Pastor Chad Brucklacher of the Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center was among the ministers who offered prayers and scriptural readings at the Deeded Body Program interment and memorial service. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Forever remembered

For her part, Occupational Therapy student Emma Lehman said she feels toward the donors both gratitude — and resolve: gratitude, for the priceless gift of anatomical training that will make her a better therapist; and resolve, that the donors and their foresight and generosity will be remembered.

“I’m blessed to be part of a program that offers such an incredible and humbling experience,” she said to the families of the donors.

“We will not take this for granted, and we appreciate the dedication and sacrifice of your loved ones.

“This experience has been one that will ultimately shape us into the best leaders in the healthcare field because of the decision your loved ones made,” Lehman continued.

“Their impact will not go unnoticed or be forgotten. Thank you.”

Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

In memory of the 48 donors to the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences’ Deeded Body Program whose selfless gift was honored on Oct 1:

Gertrude Anda
Kermit Ashland
Rodney Baade
MaryAnn Barstad
Harry Behm
Kent Berlin
Norbert Berning
Kimberly Biggers
Melody Cariveau
George Cook
Olivia Cook
Wayne Eklund
Charles Ferguson
Wilmar Fisher
Dagne Frederiksen
Jo Ann Groth
Loree Hill
Phyllis Himmerick
Ruth Jones
Robert Jorgenson
Jacob Jung
Vern Kannegiesser
Karen Kenninger
John Lunday Jr.
Richard Moquist
Sharen Nelson
Aaron Netzer
Dorothy Nill
Harold Olson
Carol Rambo
Hazel Red Bird
Arnold Rivinius
Mary Schauer
Gary Scheffler
Reon Sears
Joanne Shaw
Kenneth Shaw
Nancy Sherette
Elroy Sikorski
Ted Staudenmaier
Ralph Thompson
David Thornton
Paul Venzke
Cheryl Watkins
Peter Wilson
Katherine Wright
Stuart Wright
Robert Zozaski