Body donors honored at memorial service

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – When it comes to being a doctor or a physical therapist, a textbook and a professor can only teach you so much.

A one-of-a-kind memorial service was held Saturday for the people who give UNM medical students their most important possession – their bodies.

“John Bartholdi. Octavia Fellin.”

“Amazingly, their stories echoed in our hearts,” Priya Shah said.

“Katherine Beauchamp, Vera France.”

They’re the names of donors.

“Robert Gaines.”

Whose stories live on.

“Sixty-two men and women who have given us a gift that no one can surpass,” one student said at the podium at the Aquinas Newman Center on UNM’s campus.

That gift – their bodies.

“The gift that we were given not only touches our lives, but touches the lives of all the individuals that we will serve in our practices.”

It’s something these UNM medical students won’t soon forget.

“I can say I know so much more and I’ll be able to treat patients so much better thanks to their sacrifice and giving their body for us to learn with,” Jesse Swan, a UNM Physical Therapy student said.

That’s just one of the many reasons the students organized a memorial service for the 62 men and women who donated their bodies to science over the last year.

“It’s a very emotional and moving experience,” Brynne Wilson, an MD student said.

And not just for the students, but for the donors’ families who are saying “goodbye” again.

“This service today was so beautiful, it’s really hard to talk right now,” Basia Irland said. “He really did see this as one last way to be of service.”

One man read a poem in memory of his wife.

“She would memorize your names and ages and pastimes and hometowns if she could, but she can’t now, so remember her.”

Many students say they developed an indescribable relationship with the donors.

“We wanted to learn more about who that person was and more about their life in general,” Swan said.

It turns out they were being taught in more ways than one.

“They were more than the notes or the lectures or the presentations. They were the greatest people that we will ever meet.”

“Thank you so much, it was a really great gift,” Stefan Hardy, a Physical Therapy student said.

Four different programs use the anatomical donor service, including Doctor of Medicine, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physician’s Assistants.

Many of the students at today’s service will graduate in 2017.

This is the 15th year for the memorial service. Donor bodies are eventually cremated and given to the families. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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