Anatomy Memorial: Grateful expressions of music and poetry
man in a white lab coat standing at a podium in front of a projector screen with a candle on it
Stephan Sharf Interim Dean Duane, Mezwa, M.D., reflected on his first time in the anatomy lab as a first-year medical student during the closing remarks of the anatomy memorial.

First–year medical students showed their talent for the arts as they expressed themselves through thoughtful words and music during the anatomy memorial honoring the individuals who donated their bodies to medicine.

Whether they organized the ceremony or lent their talents as a performer, the annual event gives the first-year medical students the opportunity to reflect on how these donors have impacted their medical education.

Alan Nguyen chose to work on the planning committee so he could commemorate the donors’ invaluable gift.

“Although we do not know the ‘why’ behind their gift, we do know that they have entrusted us with the gift of life and knowledge so that we can one day positively influence the lives of others,” says Nguyen.

For Michelle Ka Wu, helping to plan the service was an honor.

“Witnessing the mystery of the human body was the most rewarding experience in my life. I wanted to thank each donor for their noblest acts,” says Wu. “And, I believe volunteering in the anatomy memorial ceremony gave me the best opportunity to express my gratitude for their generosities.”

man in a white lab coat standing and playing a trumpet while another man in a white lab coat plays the piano
Kevin Roby gave a trumpet performance of Pie Jesu with
assistance on keyboards by George Cholack.

Kevin Roby explains that for him, the trumpet performance of Pie Jesu musically captures the learning process between student and donor.

“I chose to play Pie Jesu for the beauty and meaning behind the piece,” says Roby. “It is a Latin term that translates to “affectionate Jesus.” I feel that the music embodies the passion of our learning from our first patient – our donors.”

George Cholack watched his grandmother battle medical issues all of his life; it’s the reason he is becoming a physician. His donor made him thankful for her and her loved ones.

“I was reminded that every donor, who graciously donated his or her body for the sake of our learning, was a mother, a father, a sibling, a relative, or a special person to someone,” says Cholack, who played Autumn Leaves on the piano with Aneila Elizabeth on flute. “Participating in this ceremony was a way for me to honor their lives and acknowledge their impact on the lives of others.”

Leon Quach, who performed Purple Rain on his violin, explains his tribute as one that sums up his learning experience in the anatomy lab and celebrates the donors’ lives.

“My time in the anatomy lab was amazing and inspiring, so it only felt right to honor life through the universal language of music,” says Quach. “As the concept of life is comparable to artwork, I wanted to express my gratitude towards the donors and their families through a way that was dignified, humbling, and memorable. I wanted to be a part of the ceremony because I feel like it is a way of celebrating the lives of our donors, embracing the gift of generosity and sharing a sense of humanity as a collective group.”

The annual memorial is planned in collaboration with the Oakland University Physical Therapy students with assistance from faculty committee advisers from the two schools - Deborah Doherty, P.T., Ph.D., OU Physical Therapy, and Jickssa Gemechu, Ph.D., and Victoria Roach, Ph.D., OUWB Foundational Medical Studies.