LECOM memorial service thanks families of human gift donors

Students and faculty members from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine recently showed their appreciation to the families of individuals who donated their bodies to the school’s anatomy laboratory. LECOM hosted a special memorial service at the school on Monday, May 16. Medical students expressed their gratitude to the family members and told them that working in the school’s anatomy laboratory gave them a greater understanding of the human body.

“I am grateful to the gift you and your loved ones have given to me and my fellow students,” first-year student Sheldon Stevenson told family members who attended the service. “In my opinion, the gift of one’s remains to help with medical education is the noblest gift of all,” he said.

Tracy Espiritu, a first-year medical student, sang the Ave Maria during the LECOM Donor Memorial Service while first-year medical student Okju Yi  accompanied her on the keyboard.

Medical students spent twelve weeks in the anatomy laboratory working with cadavers. They said having the hands-on experience gave them a better appreciation of the human body. First-year student Tiffany Pruchnik said the donor she worked with was 107 years old when she died. “I learned so much from her,” Pruchnik explained. “Someday I’ll be able to help someone live to 107 years old thanks to the knowledge she gave me.”

Jonathan Kalmey, Ph.D., Director of the Willed Body Program and Associate Professor of Anatomy at LECOM said, “There’s a psychological component that they learn in the lab working with deceased individuals that they wouldn’t learn from a textbook.” Dr. Kalmey said students receive a wealth of hands-on education that will stay with them for the remainder of their careers.

“These donors knew the importance of this educational tool,” said Holly Barth, a first-year Primary Care Scholars Program student who planned the memorial service. “The donors were not just teachers for the 12 weeks of anatomy – they will be our teachers for life,” she said. She said learning about the human body from a hands-on perspective was very beneficial. “It made the study of anatomy so much clearer,” she said. “I think it sticks in your memory more, too.”

LECOM medical student Holly Barth expressed her gratitude to the donors' families during the LECOM Donor Memorial Service.

Barth said one million “thank yous” would never be enough to express her gratitude to the families of the donors. “Their donation shows how selfless they are,” she said. “I think all we can do now is to try our hardest, try to remember everything and go out and be the best physicians we can be so we can positively affect other people’s lives.”

Human donations to LECOM are made through the Humanity Gifts Registry, a non-profit agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kalmey said those who donated their bodies to the school didn’t make the decision lightly. “I think it’s someone who’s looking at the greater good to be a benefit for humanity and other people,” he said. “It’s a selfless individual.”


The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.


May 17, 2011
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