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Midwestern University Body Donation Program explains importance of body donation

Posted at 7:48 AM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 13:25:22-04

Midwestern University Body Donation Program is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living.

The First Patients

It is often difficult to engage people outside of healthcare about the importance of gross anatomy and dissection to medical students. Outside of quipping off-handedly, "I am going to donate my body to science," few people realize what whole body donation is and what it means.

"Effectively, the cadaver is your first patient," explains Marcus Dee, a third-year AZCOM student. "As doctors, we will be working on real people. The human body has hundreds of structures. Books, models, and other resources are good complementary tools, but they focus on classical anatomy. When you work on a real body, you see departures from classical anatomy that are different from what you are expecting. Being able to interact with the body allows you to adapt to that, which is important down the line when you work with real patients."

Over the weeks of study and dissection in Anatomy class, the medical students exist in a perpetual state of fascination over the complexity and intricacies of the human body. The overarching sentiment, however, is one of deep respect and seriousness, both for the magnitude of their task and for the immense gift given to them by the donors.

"I think the body donation program is the best educational tool that you can have as a medical student," says Kaitlin Oliver, a third-year student at Midwestern University's Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM). "You can learn topics from books and videos, but it is not the same as seeing and touching them in real life-even if you are not going into surgery or another invasive specialty. In gross anatomy lab, you have the opportunity to learn from the inside out."

"Cure sometimes. Treat often. Comfort always," was the mantra of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. In other words, doctors may not always be able to cure their patients' ailments, but they should always strive to be compassionate. Body donation is a key factor in cultivating and inspiring this all-important compassion in medical and healthcare students. In addition to teaching students about the anatomy of the human body, the donor also offers them an intimate connection with human anatomy that no reproduction or simulation can offer.

When medical students enter the healthcare field, it should be a matter of great comfort for their patients to realize that, thanks to the immeasurable generosity of body donors and their families, they have been prepared to care for them as unique human beings. "I am a visual and hands-on learner," explains Ms. Oliver, "so that was the best way for me to learn about and respect my future patients. You can buy a textbook anywhere and books are easily replicated. It is far more difficult to obtain a donated body to examine. It is far and away the most significant gift we receive throughout our education."

For more information about Midwestern University Body Donation Program, please call 623-806-7990 or visit