VERMILLION, S.D. -- It’s described as a way to say thank you for invaluable gifts that help train the next generation of health care professionals.
The annual service in memoriam of body donors was held Friday, Sept. 12, at the United Church of Christ in Vermillion. A candle was lit at the front of the church for each of the 48 donors in 2007. More than 200 family members of donors, students, faculty and staff of The University of South Dakota’s School of Health Sciences and Sanford School of Medicine attended.
"Today is not a day of mourning but a day of celebration for the gift they gave us," Paul Haeder, president of the second-year medical class, said.
Robert Morecraft, director of the medical and applied sciences program, said students can learn about 80 percent of what they need to know about human anatomy from a textbook. The other 20 percent is variable. That’s why the body donor program is so critical for the human anatomy class. "This gives the students a first-hand experience at anticipating variation," Morecraft said.
Medical, physician assistant, occupational therapy and physical therapy students participate in the anatomy course. They said they were humbled and honored by the donations. "There were countless lessons I could not have learned in a textbook or classroom," medical student Jill Vinzant said.
Devi Chettiar, a physician assistant student, said she chose USD over another school because the other college offered only a computer simulation in its gross anatomy course. She said she learned more than scientific lessons from human dissection. "There is no way to look at a computer simulator and know what it means to be human," Chettiar said.
Chettiar said she has signed papers to become a body donor herself.
"Taps" was played as the 48 candles were extinguished at the end of the service. Ann Settles, assistant professor, human anatomy, said the gift of the donors will never be extinguished in the hearts and minds of the students who will use the knowledge they gained in the lab to more effectively provide health care to patients.
Following the service, the families met with students and were able to ask questions about their experiences in the anatomy course as well as to share stories about their loved ones and what it meant to them to provide their donati