Annual Anatomical Donation Program service honors donors, families
By: Lexie Little
Each year, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine community gathers to honor the memories of those who donated to the Anatomical Donation Program, which allows medical students to explore the intricacies of the human body. Families, friends, students, faculty, and staff gathered in Langford Auditorium on Friday, Aug. 26, to remember the “silent teaching partners” whose ultimate gift granted lessons of life, medicine, care, responsibility, and gratitude to students studying in the anatomy lab during the past year.
“I know we like to think, when we think about the foundations of medicine, that it’s the science aspect. But I can assure you there’s a more important component, which is the humanity in medicine,” Ryan Splittgerber, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery, said. “This is medicine. This is the foundation of medicine. It’s about loving, protecting, and caring for others. From day one, it was [the generous donors] who bestowed this understanding on our medical students.”
Students in the second-year MD class who completed their anatomy labs in the previous year offered words of thanks, musical performances, and original poetry to honor their silent teaching partners. The Rev. Ian Cullen, Palliative Care Chaplain at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, read the names of each donor.
Speakers offered their experiences and gratitude.
“We are forever grateful for the gift your courageous and selfless family members provided to our program,” Class of 2025 student Shreya Bhatia said. “They were there for us [to support us] every day through this entire year, and I can confidently say that I am a better future physician because of them. I think I speak for each of us when I say the moments that we shared with them, our first patients, will remain for us forever and make us more compassionate, responsible, and skilled physicians…[They were] the first patients we called our own and cared so deeply for, those who taught us lessons and gave us experiences that can never be replicated…I am moved thinking about the opportunity you [the families] and those you cherish have given us.”
M2 Alex Gimeno played an original composition entitled “Gratitude” on piano. Classmates Janice Im and Sharon Fernandez also expressed thanks through a musical duet on violin and cello before Sunaya Krishnapura recited an original poem written for and dedicated to their silent teaching partners.
Gifts of the whole body advance anatomic education and clinical training of medical students, physicians, and other health professionals at the university. These voluntary donations serve as a critical resource to allow completion of required learning for those training to provide comprehensive, excellent care for the living.
“Silently, the donors have taught by example the lessons of altruism, compassion, and generosity,” class president Yanelis Diaz said. “We were so fortunate to have them by our sides this year. The donations made [here] will better the lives of thousands and thousands of people, our future patients.
“Every day of our careers, every patient we see, every diagnosis we make, and every procedure we perform, your loved ones made it possible.”
VUSM thanks Anatomical Donation Program families for their generous support. Students, faculty, and staff hold them in reverence as students explore the foundations of human life and the knowledge upon which medical professions rest.