Honoring our donors: A survey of memorial ceremonies in United States anatomy programs

Trahern W. Jones, Nirusha Lachman, Wojciech Pawlina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Many anatomy programs that incorporate dissection of donated human bodies hold memorial ceremonies of gratitude towards body donors. The content of these ceremonies may include learners' reflections on mortality, respect, altruism, and personal growth told through various humanities modalities. The task of planning is usually student- and faculty-led with participation from other health care students. Objective information on current memorial ceremonies for body donors in anatomy programs in the United States appears to be lacking. The number of programs in the United States that currently plan these memorial ceremonies and information on trends in programs undertaking such ceremonies remain unknown. Gross anatomy program directors throughout the United States were contacted and asked to respond to a voluntary questionnaire on memorial ceremonies held at their institution. The results (response rate 68.2%) indicated that a majority of human anatomy programs (95.5%) hold memorial ceremonies. These ceremonies are, for the most part, student-driven and nondenominational or secular in nature. Participants heavily rely upon speech, music, poetry, and written essays, with a small inclusion of other humanities modalities, such as dance or visual art, to explore a variety of themes during these ceremonies. Anat Sci Educ 7: 219-223.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-223
Number of pages5
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Anatomy education
  • Bequest program
  • Body donation programs
  • Body donors
  • Medical education
  • Medical humanity
  • Medical students
  • Memorial ceremony
  • Professionalism
  • Service of gratitude
  • Thanksgiving ceremony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology


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