University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine medical students honor anatomical donors for their gift of teaching anatomy and discovery

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UNR Med first year medical students host an Anatomical Donation Program memorial service annually to honor and remember the thoughtfulness and generosity of donors for enriching their medical education.

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine first year medical students host an Anatomical Donation Program memorial service annually to honor and remember the thoughtfulness and generosity of donors for enriching their medical education. UNR Med photo by Brin Reynolds. 

Death can advance life. Anatomical donors - people who donate their bodies to medical education and research after passing away, teach medical students about far more than gross anatomy. Cadavers posthumously teach medical students how to care, detach, work as a team and develop a sense of curiosity and discovery. And anatomical donors give a gift to medical students in how to navigate the emotions they'll face when delivering bad news and putting patients through painful experiences in order to make them well again.

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) first year medical students have the unique opportunity to take anatomy classes in the only gross anatomy lab in the state with an additional 40-50 people in their lab - people who have donated their bodies for the purpose of cadaver dissection, human body teaching tools in three-dimensional physical reality, who are an essential part of medical education. Those people, the cadavers, become a medical student's first patient. As students advance onto years 2, 3 and 4 of medical school and learn more about kidneys, lungs and hearts, it is the time spent learning through the dissection of their cadavers that provides their baseline medical education training and gets them thinking about caring for their future patients.     

Each June, UNR Med first year medical students honor those people who gift their bodies to UNR Med's anatomical donation program for medical research and education. Today, UNR Med students hosted relatives, loved ones and friends of deceased donors at Walton's Sierra Chapel to express deep gratitude and pay respects for body donations of the 2017-2018 academic year's donors.  

Anatomical donations to UNR Med enhance the medical education of future physicians on the complexity of the human anatomy and make it possible for medical researchers and educators to advance medical science, seek cures and improve treatments for diseases such as breast cancer, muscular dystrophy, neurological disorders and more.  

The gift of body donation can be a way to make an impactful difference in the lives of others. "People choose to become anatomical donors for a variety of reasons," said Joyce King, anatomical donation program administrator. "The most frequent reason I hear is how important it is to them that their remains benefit medical education and research. They express pleasure in knowing their donation may help a future doctor or researcher find a cure for diseases. Donors also appreciate that their advanced planning eliminates confusion at end of life and that their donation will make a lasting difference."   The anatomical donation program accepts donations from individuals across northern Nevada for anatomical research conducted at UNR Med. The program has been in operation since 1987.  

"If my body can teach students or ultimately even save someone, of course that's what I want - to help in some way, to do some good," said Margie Cooley, 78, a Reno local who decided to donate her remains for the good of medical students at UNR Med.  

The anatomical donation process of gifting one's body to medical science is at no cost and offers free cremation services. The doctors at UNR Med understand the importance behind the decision and assure that both doctors and students will ensure the dignity and respect of donors and their families.  

Today's UNR Med students conducting the anatomical donation program memorial service are not alone in commemorating the past and future. While the UNR Med anatomical donation program has a 31-year history, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine will celebrate 50 years as a community-based medical school in May 2019.  

The school is commemorating its 50-year anniversary throughout 2018-2019 with special events, programs and community outreach.  UNR Med has educated more than 2,000 students, residents and fellows since it was founded in 1969.  

For further information on body donations, please contact Joyce King, UNR School of Medicine anatomical donation program administrator, at (775) 784-4569.

Media Contacts

Julie Ardito, APR
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006

Tessa Bowen, MPA
Communications Manager, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.