Memorial service for body donors honors their gift

SAN ANTONIO (May 2, 2011) — At 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3, the sound of bagpipes will rise from a quiet green space at the edge of The University of Texas Health Science Center’s Greehey Campus.

At that time students, professors and family members will commemorate a new marker in the small memorial garden that honors body donors for their contribution to the medical sciences.

The students, who are in their first year of medical, dental and health professions schools, will reflect on their experiences, said Omid Rahimi, Ph.D., director of the Health Science Center’s Human Anatomy Program.

“To treat humans, we have to learn the anatomy and physiology of our bodies,” Dr. Rahimi said. “Each body is different – one text or one model won’t teach us, so this experience is crucial to the education of our students. There’s a less measurable benefit for them as well: most of them have never been able to be this close to a person who has passed on.”

For 15 years, the Willed Body Program at the UT Health Science Center has held an interment ceremony, honoring body donors for their lasting gift to the medical sciences and to humankind.

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate to the families of the donors our appreciation for their gift, and to reiterate our high regard for those who help educate the physicians and other health care workers of the future,” said Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. González and Christi Walter, Ph.D., professor and chair of cellular and structural biology, will be present to pay their respects to the body donors and to speak of their experiences.

The Burial of the Ashes ceremony will begin behind the McDermott Building at the university’s Greehey Campus, 8403 Floyd Curl Drive, and last about a half hour. The ceremony traditionally begins and ends with pipers leading the group to and from the interment site. The public is invited to attend.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving U.S. federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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