September 7, 2007
  Top Story

The greatest gift: First-year TCOM students honor Willed Body Program donors and families

“You are allowed to do what very few people in the world get to do – to dissect a human body. This is a privilege.” Dr. Robert Wordinger’s words summed up the purpose for TCOM’s Year One Respect Ceremony – a memorial initiated by Dr. Wordinger, chairman of Cell Biology and Genetics, to honor those who have donated their bodies to TCOM’s Willed Body Program. The Class of 2011 sat quietly, listening to the words of those whose loved ones had given the gift of their bodies to medical education – a son, a daughter and a wife who each knew how important this donation was to their mother, father and husband. Quiet tears – both their own and the students’ – accompanied their remembrances.

Second-year students who had already completed their anatomy lab courses also spoke. The “seasoned veterans” explained their feelings of grief, guilt, excitement, amazement and awe during their lab time.

Here are some of the sentiments from this year’s Respect Ceremony, which was held Sept. 4.

“We are given the gift to do something that few people do – see the human body inside and out. You will get to hold a human heart in your hand. You will get to hold a human brain in your hand. Remember that this is an amazing opportunity.”
          -- Allison Davidson, second-year TCOM student


“My mother would be so proud, knowing she had done something like this. My mother and father both made the decision – they believed that if they could help you become a better doctor, they could help thousands.”
          -- Chuck Milling, son of Dr. Margaret Milling, first female secondary administrator in the Fort Worth ISD
             and Willed Body Program donor


“I looked at the body on the table, and I thought, ‘This is someone who was a dad, a father, perhaps a brother’ – and I realized what I would have to do to this individual. I was nervous. I walked up and placed my hand on his back, and I said, ‘Please forgive me for what I am about to do to you.’ It’s OK to feel that way. Don’t forget the human. Don’t forget they made this choice. The Bible says, ‘Greater love hath no man than he who will lay down his life for a friend.’ ”
          -- David Candelario, second-year TCOM student, on his first encounter with his cadaver in the lab


“This body was someone’s grandmother, someone’s great uncle, someone’s loved one. Each tank represents someone’s loss. They have the expectation that their gift and your work will improve medicine. Please treat these bodies with respect.”
          -- Jessica Toler, second-year TCOM student


“I’m very grateful for the chance to tell you about my father. He would have been the first one to tell you that he was blessed – he would want you to know that.”
          -- Ruth Ann Ponder, daughter of John Petter, Willed Body Program donor


“My great-grandmother had made the decision to donate. My grandmother decided to do the same thing. When I was in the lab, I kept in mind what they expected of dissection. She wanted it to be a humane experience. She would see how excited I was when I was in the lab. Keep the people in mind who donate and what their expectations are.”
          -- Kali Veteto, second-year student


“As you go through this year, take advantage of the opportunity – people do this because they want to give you the opportunity to learn.”
          -- Erika Lebaron, second-year TCOM student who had a friend who donated his body to medical studies


“I know where he is, he is happy he made this decision. We discussed it and decided together to do this, and then use the money for a burial to give to charity instead. If he were here today, he would tell you how happy he is about this. He would want you to use your mind to its best.”
          -- June Petter, wife of John Petter for almost 54 years


“When we started anatomy lab, I was so excited. I was the person who would hold up the brain and spinal column still attached and tell people not to touch it because I was so amazed by this. I almost felt guilty about being excited. Then I thought about that person and realized they probably wanted someone who was excited about this – excited to learn.”
          -- Casey Stell, second-year TCOM student


“Students, be forever grateful and be thankful for those who made this possible. And to you whose loved ones we honor today, please know that we will treat them with respect.”
          -- Dr. Scott Ransom, president UNT HSC Logo


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