LUCOM student-doctors, faculty honor the school’s first "patients"

Shelley Andrews :: LUCOM Marketing and PR | Sep 18, 2015

Years ago 23 men and women made a selfless sacrifice. Instead of arranging for the typical burial options, these individuals wanted their bodies to be used to advance the world of science. Those 23 donations ended up at the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) and were used as educational tools throughout the college’s inaugural 2014-2015 school year.

To remember and thank these individuals and their families, LUCOM’s Class of 2018 held a special cadaver memorial at the Lahaye Event Center.  LUCOM student-doctors and faculty delivered messages to some of the families who attended.

LUCOM student-doctor Lily Daniel“As first year medical students, your loved ones really represented our first patients, but more than that they were our teachers,” said student-doctor Lily Anne Voth Daniel, President, Class of 2018. 

Timothy Leonard, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean for Biomedical Sciences, expanded on Daniel’s message, explaining to the families that their loved ones are considered a part of the Class of 2018, as faculty. “I’m not sure of their vocation in life, but in their death they were gifted teachers. They helped to teach these osteopathic medical students anatomy and the importance of structure-function relationships in the human body,” said Dr. Leonard. “They also helped these student-doctors to consider the value of human life, the fragility of human life, and how to confront death.”

Other student-doctors spoke briefly about their experiences, including the moment they all realized the incredible gift and sacrifice someone made for their education. “It was no longer just the human body, it was a person’s body. It was someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter...the connection became so real,” said student-doctor Kayleigh M. Kenny.

Student-doctor Joshua Reynolds admitted he had to face some intense emotions. “Before LUCOM, I had never seen a Cadaver. The closest thing I had seen was a friend or relative at an open casket funeral. So, for me, the experience of seeing a cadaver came with a smorgasbord of different feelings: shock, nausea, apprehension, gratitude, all with a healthy share of amazement,” said Reynolds. “I am in awe of the complexity, intricacy, and delicacy of the body that my God made.”

“The transition from living to dead is readily apparent when you stand above a cadaver for the first time,” stated Ronnie B. Martin, D.O., Dean of LUCOM. “In the absence of movement, heart-beat or respirations, the miracle of life is never more apparent than when they devote themselves to the investigation of these individuals.”

Dr. Martin continued, “The absence of life is apparent, and it takes the student little thought to realize that it is the spirit and the soul of the patient that is absent. Our student-doctors will mentally be reminded when they think of this in the laboratory, that the treatment of humans requires much more than the treatment of diseased tissue or the mechanical mending of structures, rather care of what was missing from that body, the consequence, spirit and soul of the patient.”

The Class of 2018 made sure to let the families know that the decision their loved ones made about their deaths will change lives for years to come. “Their selflessness surpasses their death in the knowledge that each of us will carry with us forever,” said Daniel.