Read the speeches delivered by students who spoke at the annual Donor Memorial Service at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The ceremonies are held each spring. See some of our speeches for the 2019 Donor Memorial Ceremony.
Two wonderful human virtues are selfless generosity and kindness to strangers, especially when the acts of those virtues extend benefits to others well into the future.
Our graduate Anatomy Program thanks you and your loved ones for their extraordinary generosity.
Our faculty and our students receive essential knowledge, do vital research, and fortify their training with the important resources you have entrusted to our professional care.
Your family member’s donation will be as important in the future as it is now in the present.
In the words of poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.”
We hope today to celebrate the impact your family members had on your lives and that they continue to have on ours.
Thank you again for joining us this afternoon to celebrate the generosity of your loved ones. Please join us now for a reception on the bridge on the second floor of this building. We also invite our guests to visit the Anatomical Donor Memorial Garden, a short walk from this building.
Thank you so much for that beautiful performance. That was Alexis Wood from the Physical Therapy Class of 2020.
Good Evening everyone. My name is Eddie Soto and tonight I will be your master of ceremonies. Prior to beginning the ceremony I would like to ask everyone to please take a moment to silence your cellphones. Feel free to take photos and videos but please don’t use flash.
Thank you all for coming. I want to welcome all deans, faculty, administration, students, representatives and community members here today and I would also like to welcome our guests from the University of Wyoming whose education has been shaped by the donor’s generosity.
I especially want to thank all family members here today.
Growing up, I would visit my grandmother’s beautiful garden in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I have two distinct memories of this time. The first, is my grandmother yelling, “Chamaco feo, ¿por qué estás destruyendo mi jardín?”
Which roughly translates to, “Beautiful child of this planet we call earth, thank you so much for ripping the flowers from my well kept garden to bring me what looks like a delcious and sanitary flower soup”.
Just kidding, the actual translation was “Idiot! Why are you destroying my garden?”
The second memory I had was sitting under a beautiful jacaranda tree close to her home, smelling the sweet honey scent from the blossoms, and feeling like the whole world went quiet.
It was a moment that reminded me of the famous quote my father would recite, “El que a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le acobija.”
Which translates to, “He who gets close to a good tree, will find a nice shade for shelter”.
Good trees are strong trees, well rooted, and experienced. Good trees are wise, they persist, and they thrive. I learned of a strong tree during one of my first encounters beginning medical school. This tree granted me the environment to learn and grow. The shade she provided, although she may not know, was the push to learn how to become the kind of tree she was.
I was not the only one to get close to a good tree. Everyone here today, recognizes strong trees. Seeds were sown throughout this room and this campus, as well as in your homes and favorite places. These strong trees helped sow these seeds. They taught us all lessons on how to grow. And especially here…
They taught us how to become the health care providers that we strive to be. To treat patients anatomical needs, but also to respect the dignity of human life. Cherish the strong trees that helped you become one. Our theme tonight is planting seeds, and like Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote “With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see”
We are immensely grateful for the gift your family members have given to us and our education, and I hope that gratitude is well shown to you during this ceremony. At this time, I would like to welcome the Reverend Dustin Frye to the stage to deliver some words of Gratitude to begin the ceremony.
It is my pleasure to introduce two students performing musical selections. Matt Golub from the School Medicine Class of 2022 followed by Sierra Rose from the School of Dental Medicine Class of 2022.
And now we will have three student speakers, Samantha Connor from the School of Medicine Class of 2022, Tyler Johnson from the Modern Human Anatomy program class of 2020, and Megan O’Connor from the Physical Therapy Program class of 2020.
Chris O’Neill from the Modern Human Anatomy Program Class of 2020 will now be performing.
Kory Carpenter from the School of Dental Medicine Class of 2022 and Melanie Logan from the Physician Assistant Program Class of 2021.
We will now be hearing from family members in remembrance of loved ones. The speakers include Maya Mintzer, Joel Solomon, Pam McWilliams, Joel Hughley, and Charlotte Manny.
I would like to welcome back the Reverend Dustin Frye for the benediction. This will be followed by the Anschutz Campus Choir and closing remarks from Charlotte Wilson from the Modern Human Anatomy Program Class of 2020.
We gather today to respect the selflessness of our donors and to say thank you to their supporting families. It takes uncommon selflessness to donate one’s very body to assist in the future healing of others. That sort of love extends beyond death. The charity that motivated our donors to honor us students with the gift of their bodies is the same love that they expressed to their spouses, friends and families while they were alive.
The biggest impact of working with our donors for me was the realization of how intricately and beautifully each of us is created. To borrow from Psalm 139, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful.” No experience will ever illustrate the words of this passage more to me than the experience of working with our donors.
I want to conclude by expressing gratitude to our donors and our families here. Thank you for not only teaching us about the elegant machinery of the human body, but thank you for the lesson in how preciously created we all are. May it motivate us to grow in love for one another by mirroring their humility in our daily lives.
When I started on this journey of learning medicine and preparing to be a clinician, I had little idea of what was to come. I was eager, albeit nervous to learn the basic sciences that would provide the foundation for clinical medicine and physical diagnosis. I knew anatomy was a critical part of this. My mother is a physician and before starting school she told me how influential and impactful her donor was on her education - recalling fond memories with classmates learning the intricacies of the human body in gross anatomy some 30 years ago. To be completely honest, I was terrified to walk into my first anatomy lab. Putting on scrubs perhaps made me look the part, but I had no idea what I was doing and more significantly how I would feel. Nine months later as we finish up our anatomy curriculum for year 1, I look back with wholehearted gratitude.
Medicine is now more than ever evolving and changing. As new research and technology is constantly being developed, once cutting-edge therapies and procedures are being replaced with shiny new innovations. On the contrary, the anatomical structures and functions that comprise the human body are constant, established, enduring. There is beautiful comfort in knowing though every donor embodies a unique human experience, the sameness of the human body provides a cohesive collective experience that unites me and you.
Donating your body to students of medicine is a gift that can never be quantified. Laying our hands on you and tracing the intricate details of the vasculature that helped pump your heart for many years is a privilege we will never be able to express in adequate words. You don’t know us but we know you. You are our first teachers and our first patients. Because of your generosity, we now understand the foundations for clinical medicine, the uniqueness and variability of the human body and the incredible power of a life well lived. There is no textbook that could parallel the lessons you have taught me and my classmates and for that, we are forever grateful. We hope to emulate the same compassion you did at the end of your life with our patients every single day. This world needs more kindness and love and through such a selfless act, you have empowered us to recognize the power of compassion and empathy in our interactions with our future patients.
At the end of life, we all hope to leave our mark on this world. I’m certain you have left your mark on countless family and friends through years of a long wonderful life. Now you have left your mark on us. Legacy is not leaving something for people, but leaving something in them.
Thank you for doing just that.
Coming into medical school, everything is exciting. You get to do things that only a privileged minority get to do. Direct patient contact, access to abundant knowledge, and….human dissection.
The first day I was in the lab, I remember walking out, covered in sweat and formalin, thinking how I had had no idea what that was going to be like. As the block continued we got the legs, I saw arthritic knees from years of the weight they had to hold…the arms, when everyone crowded our donor to see their astonishingly unique brachial plexus…the heart, a bypass with the great saphenous vein that we had assumed, in our ignorance, we’d just missed while at his leg.
Then, the brain. With the memories, knowledge, emotions and lessons that this person had gathered in their life…things I would never get to know about them. I looked down at the table, having touched every organ, explored every corner, and I was struck with the privilege I possess. This human being, and countless before, had died….and given their whole self in order for us to learn. In order for this field of medicine to march forward and progress…without them.
If this sacrifice leads to some cure, or cutting edge treatment, they receive no reward, no payout, and often no recognition. I benefit, future patients benefit, from this life that has been lost.
But, in a different way, they live on forever from the lessons we gathered from our time with them. Our careers, quite literally, began with their sacrifice. I think this realization is when you fully commit to the profession. The gravity of your responsibility hits you, and you look down, and everything becomes clearer, albeit scarier. Every person I’ve come across in this process approached this distinct responsibility with veracity, and integrity. We work not only to be the best we can be, but to honor the sacrifice that so many have made for us to even get to this point.
As we finished up our time in the lab, we left our donors with a new, intimate understanding of the human body and the life it represents. And we will always remember their lessons as our first patient and teacher.
Hello everyone, my name is Tyler Johnson and I am one of the current co-presidents of the Modern Human Anatomy Program. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to celebrate your loved ones with us. This ceremony is to share how special we think your loved ones are and honor the selfless gift they have bestowed to us.
It is easy to associate body donation with the loss of a loved one and the end of a life. In actuality, I think the closest comparison is being at a rock concert, watching the stage go dark as the concert seems to be ending. But just when you think it’s over, the band comes out and plays that final hit song. That smile on your face you get when they come back out is the same smile each of you should have knowing your loved ones gave an encore after their rock concert of a life.
Now, Cu Anschutz might have a star or two in the midst but the real rockstars of our school are the donors. I want to talk about the encores that some of these donors have played in my program.
During our first semester, we take a class called imaging and modeling. This class teaches us how to use our computers to segment and make models of real tissues, bones, and organs from CT scans. The CT scans we use are from the donor bodies we are privileged enough to meet the following semester. Think of that, the body many thought would just be a physical teaching tool, is now a digital tool to allow all students to continue using long after the physical body is gone. Our final project is to create a scientific experiment based on these CT’s for our specialized interests. For the majority of us in the class, this was our first scientific experiment we had the opportunity to design and perform. We can’t say thank you enough to you and the donors for allowing my classmates and I to have this experience.
After the digital experience of exploring bodies we haven’t even physically laid eyes on yet, the second semester begins, and our gross anatomy class is upon us which allows us to finally meet the donors. This dissection experience is what brought most of us to this modern human anatomy program and for good reason. The process of dissection allows us to truly see what the human body is like. A process that can never truly be felt through books or virtual software. The donors teach us more about their bodies than we will ever know about our own. The experience can be thought of as an unspoken agreement between donor and student stating any knowledge gained from the donor, is to be put to use towards positive medical advancements in the future. A future of a person the donor will never know based on knowledge from a donor, who’s name we will never know.
Before I go, I’d like to share a small experience from a recent anatomy lab I was in. A couple of weeks ago my group and I were removing the organs of our donor. We carefully removed the heart from the body, and one at a time, each of us held the beautiful muscle in our hands. We knew we would take time later on to learn the structures, but in this moment, we also knew to take in the experience of holding a real human heart. This heart was not like any cartoon rendition or anatomical drawing because ultimately it was real. It had lived a long life before ever being brought outside the body. As I felt the heart, I noticed a rough texture along the right atrium. Naturally, I was curious. But when I asked Dr. Wagoner why this was, she responded with a question of her own, “how old was this donor?”. Thrown off by this, I told her the donor was over 80 years old. Her exact words were, “it’s because they had a damn good life”. So, thank you, to your loved ones, for donating their bodies to this school and allowing us this experience. I hope each and every one of you is proud of the encore they gave after their damn good lives.
Welcome friends, family, educators, students, and honored guests. My name is Meg O’Connor and I am a student of the Physical Therapy program here on the Anschutz Medical Campus. I had the honor of learning from our donors and wanted to share my gratitude with all of those touched by them.
As physical therapists, we are known as the “movement experts.” We aim to partner with our patients to access the joy of life in motion. Many of us know the feeling of movement, but not the how, not the why. This is where donors provide an enormous gift to those of us committed to learning the intricacies of movement. At first glance, learning movement from someone who has passed away and remains so still may seem counterintuitive. But the basis of movement comes from the shape of a muscle, the curves of a bone, the tension of a tendon weaving together to become what we see in every motion we make. Our donors provide an opportunity to learn in a way that no textbook or computer program could ever teach us, one that we base our profession on.
As we get to know our donors, we are reminded daily of their humanity. The perfectly manicured nails painted a shade of cherry blossom pink. The callouses from a wedding band, or gripping a heavy load day after day. The freckles from being out in the sun. Surgical incisions whitened by time. Or the tattoo long faded from the day they sat under a needle. This person lived a life that we can only imagine, and I never want to disrespect their memory by trying to fill in the gaps with stories we create without knowing them. But we do know each person was also generous enough to be a part of someone else’s life even after they left the world.
We take the memories of them with us as we forge forward. In that way, they become immortal. Each student they quietly taught will take their memory into the future. Those same students will teach others what they learned in those moments from your friend, your family member, your loved one. The impact of their gift truly knows no end.
Our donors do not only teach anatomy and motion while reminding us of the humanity behind it. They also inspire. The courage, openness, and generosity that our donors showed by donating their bodies to educating future providers was truly inspiring to me. I had never considered what would become of my body once I left it. Because of the depth of knowledge and understanding provided by your loved ones, friends, and family members, I am inspired to pay it forward in a similar fashion for my future providers and am in the process of adding my name to the donor registry. I hope to live a full life that will leave students wondering who I was, who I cared for, what I loved, what each day was like for me. I hope they will learn their practice the way I have had the opportunity to and to inspire them the same way.
To all of our honored guests here today, who knew our donors’ stories, know that in their act of generosity, they have provided a new thread to weave into a stranger’s tale, and we will forever be grateful for their gift. Thank you for letting us share our experiences with you today.
Finally, thank you, to each and every donor who has touched our lives, wherever you may be now. You will never be forgotten.
Dear all friends and families of donors,
The Donor Memorial Ceremony is meant to honor those who have donated their bodies for the continued education of future healthcare professionals. The event will occur on Thursday, May 11th at 5:30 pm MST. We would like to invite family members to participate in this event in person and the CU community can join us virtually this year. Please RSVP for the event online here. Your family can either attend virtually via zoom or in person at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. If you attend in person, 2 people are invited. We have over 250 families and we need to accommodate each family.
Options for involvement include the following:
Tributes can include what your family member was like, your favorite stories or memories of them, their passion and dedication to medical education, and more.
Photo: You may also include 1 photo of the donor to be added to our slideshow that will be presented before and after the event. Please upload the picture online in the RSVP form.
Student Representatives - The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus