Donor Stories

I have been the instructor of Human Anatomy (Biol 2320) and Human Dissection (Biol 4000) at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, for much of the past 35 years. Working with the seven cadavers that arrive at USU every July has been a tremendous learning experience me, for the 450 college students that study these cadavers, and for the approximately 1,500 visiting high school students (who are enrolled in an applicable college-credit class) who tour the USU cadaver lab every year. Again and again I have noticed how students are initially timid as they approach their work with these bodies. However, as they wield their scalpels and saws, or as they all stand in a circle holding the removed gastrointestinal tract, they are amazed to see the effects of disease and age, not only on the outside, but also on the inside. It is one thing to read about cancer, it is an entirely different thing when you hold a cancerous liver in your own hands. It has been suggested to me on many occasions that it would be easier to use electronic images or virtual cadavers. In my opinion, working with a real body impacts, matures, and motivates students like nothing else. They learn to respect the cadavers as their “first patient” and learn important lessons that will carry over into their future careers and their future living patients. It has been an honor for me to guide these students in this illuminating process. We are all sincerely grateful to the individuals and families who make these cadavers available to us. Please keep up the good work that you do at the U of U guiding the Body Donor Program.

D. Andy Anderson, PhD., Principal Lecturer, Biology Department, USU (andy.anderson@usu.edu)

As one of the many professors at the University of Utah I am grateful for the generosity of our donors. The buildings and classrooms that I teach in help students to learn the numerous facets of medicine and bare the name of the donor. I think that a University can not succeed without the generous contributions of its donors. There are other donations that are less public and less known of. These individuals donate their “whole self” to further the education of our health professional students. I express gratitude for the altruistic donation of the countless individuals who enter the cadaver lab as a special type of teacher. Our students learn anatomy from them and also respect and reverence for the human body. Even with the ever increasing volume and quality of textbooks, iPad apps, websites and virtual reality the "human body" is and will always be the primary teaching tool for learning the "human body”. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the donors and their families for their donation. Please know that your gift influences our future health care providers in more ways than you could ever know.

Sincerely,
David A. Morton, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy

One of the most surprising aspects of studying anatomy was the humility I gained from studying the bodies that have been donated to us. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn anatomy and teach anatomy with hands on experience. I am currently pursuing a degree in nursing and hope to work towards a more advanced degree in medicine as well. I have learned so much from these people and have been inspired to focus my life on healing others. I am grateful for the service that these people have continued to give after death. It has blessed my life, and countless others here at BYU.

Cortney Welch, BYU Anatomy TA

The Body Donor Program has been an invaluable resource supporting our ability to teach brain anatomy to second-year medical students. Understanding the normal functions of the brain, not to mention the many diseases and disorders that can affect patients, requires fundamental knowledge of the underlying structures and pathways. For many students, this knowledge is most effectively gained by seeing an actual brain in three dimensions, and discovering how this amazing organ is put together. We thank the donors and their families for their generosity, which makes this learning experience possible,

Richard Dorsky (richard.dorsky@neuro.utah.edu)
Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy

I teach microscopic ear surgery to otolaryngology (ear nose and throat) residents. As you might imagine, this is difficult surgery to learn, as the ear is very small and it is also difficult to learn how to steady your hands as well as work through a microscope. It takes about 5 years of training to be competent doing these operations.

Because of the Body Donor Program, we are able to teach residents how to do these operations using the structures of the inner ear from the donors. We have a microsurgical simulation laboratory where each student has a miniature operating room suite with all the equipment necessary to practice the operations. Having the ability to practice the operations in the laboratory makes learning more effective and more predictable in the operating room.

I have been doing microscopic ear surgery for more than 30 years. I occasionally go to the laboratory to practice a new procedure or to brush up on some anatomy. The Body Donor Program has had a huge impact by enabling is to advance our surgical procedures, improve the care to our patients and make the education process more effective.

Clough Shelton, M.D. FACS
Hetzel Professor and Chief of Otolaryngology
University of Utah School of Medicine

My experiences with donor bodies has had a strong influence on my life both personally and professionally. Initially I chose to pursue a degree in engineering and following an elective course in anatomy I changed my educational direction. This change in direction was primarily due to my experiences with donor bodies in the laboratory and led to a degree in physical therapy in 1994. During my time as a clinician, I volunteered in the anatomy lab and my drive to learn more led to enrollment in a PhD program in which I graduated with a PhD in anatomy in 2005. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to direct the education for thousands of graduate students in which the donor bodies have been the primary teachers. I would like to personally thank all of the donors and their families for their priceless gift and let them know of the positive impact this gift has had on me and the thousands of students I have had the privilege to teach.

Sincerely,
K. Bo Foreman, PT, PhD
Associate Professor
University of Utah

The gift a donor makes when choosing to donate their body is extraordinary, with a profound impact that is difficult to describe.

As an instructor in Gross Anatomy and Neuroanatomy labs for medical and dental students, I have seen firsthand the impact donors have had on students. Access to bodies allows students to learn not just in the theoretical way of lectures but in a much more tangible manner. To physically see and hold a body teaches like no book can. For instructors such as myself, the selfless gift of body donors allows me to teach anatomy as it exists in the human body. For students, this experience cements and builds on lectures, and is critical when teaching something as complex as the human body.

When teaching in the anatomy lab, I also observe. I see aspiring health professionals grasp the inner workings of our bodies. I see them understand how the disparate parts and systems of the body work together as a whole. And most gratifyingly, I see them grow from being simply students towards becoming the health professionals who will take care of all of us. This personal growth and understanding is difficult to come by in a book. But I see it happen in the anatomy lab with every class of students.

I see and feel the impact a body donor makes every time I am in lab, and I will be eternally grateful to all those who have given this gift.

David Hutcheson, PhD
Dentistry - Adjunct Instructor,
Neurobiology & Anatomy - Research Assistant Professor

My name is Merri Luczak, and I have been an anatomy lab TA at BYU for the past 5 months. I just wanted to contribute some thoughts of how important the bodies of the donors have meant to me!

As a student who is on the road to medical school, I feel so privileged to be able to study what I love most because of those who have donated their bodies to my university. Through learning about the body, anatomy has become a passion of mine, and something that I want to continue to study throughout my life. I believe that I have gained a greater appreciation for my body and how special and unique everyone is. I am so grateful for those who have donated their bodies for the purpose of learning. It has made me want to do the same, when that time comes in my life, so that I can give somebody the same love for the body as has been instilled in me. I thank the families of those who have been by their side. It means the world to me and my peers. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Merri Luczak

For the past thirty-two years it has been my great privilege to teach over 27,000 students human anatomy at the University of Utah. The majority of these students were pursuing careers in the health sciences, such as, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant, optometry, medicine, dentistry, massage therapy, and athletic training. Each of these more than 27,000 students had the ultimate learning experience in anatomy, that is, the opportunity to learn anatomy the best way possible by seeing the real thing. Just as the best mechanics must have a detailed knowledge of the machine they are working on, so must the best medical professional have a detailed knowledge of the machine they are working with - the human body. This intimate knowledge of the human form was made possible because of the gracious donors who willed their bodies so others could better understand the structure that would be the core of their future profession. There is no better way to truly understand our amazing body then through the exploration of the real thing. The state of Utah has countless individuals in the healthcare profession whose education and knowledge has been enhanced by the many caring individuals that have donated their bodies so that others can gain a better understanding of our amazing anatomy.

Mark Nielsen,
Professor/Lecturer
U of U Biology

I am excited to donate my body to the U of U Body Donor Program. I am a transgender individual, and it is very important to me that people with bodies like mine are represented in medical education. Our external anatomy can be quite different than that of our cisgender counterparts, and to know that my corporeal shell may be used to advance awareness would be the greatest legacy I can think of.
TJ

In the 1980's my father was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a grapefruit on his heart and lungs causing his doctor to give him a three month prognosis. His doctor informed him that his only hope was to go to the University of Utah to receive an experimental cancer treatment. His doctor also informed him this procedure would leave unable to have any more children. Having had 11 children at this point he felt he had done his part.

The procedure worked and his life was saved. A few years later my mother became pregnant with my fathers 12th child. That child was me and if it wasn't for the University of Utah I would of not been born. I am gifting my body not only as a sign of gratitude but with the hope anything learned from my body can help the next person yet to be born.

Michael

CONTACT US

For questions about body donation please call, email, or write to:

Kerry Peterson
Body Donor Program
520 Wakara Way, SLC, Utah 84112

Phone: (8 am–4 pm): 801-581-6728
Phone: (after hours, weekends, & holidays): 801-581-2121
Email: bodydonor@lists.utah.edu