Minnesota

First-Year Medical Students Honor Body Donors with Interfaith Service : SLU

Saint Louis University students honored those who donated their bodies for medical education with an interfaith memorial service on Friday, November 11.

Student Savannah England reads a reflection during the interfaith memorial service at St. Francis Xavier College Church on November 11.  The service honors loved ones who have donated their bodies to the School of Medicine through the Gift Body Program.  Photo by Sarah Conroy.
Start slide showStudent Savannah England reads a reflection during the interfaith memorial service at St. Francis Xavier College Church on November 11. The service honors loved ones who have donated their bodies to the School of Medicine through the Gift Body Program. Photo by Sarah Conroy.

The service is assembled by first-year medical students led by John Martin, Ph.D., Dan Daly, DC, Ph.D., and Aidan Ruth, Ph.D. to be directed. the Center for Anatomical Science and Education (CASE); and Erin Fitzpatrick, Campus Ministry.

Students are involved in every aspect of the service – from selecting and performing the music, to creating the programming, to picking the flowers to use in the flower parade. A mix of first-year medical students, graduate students and Allied Health students will also serve during the memorial service.

In his reflection, student Stanley Wu thanked the families present for the gifts of knowledge, humanity and selflessness that their loved ones gave to him and his fellow students at SLU.

Will Rudder used his reflection to quantify a donor’s gift to families. Rudder cited a 2018 study that found the average doctor sees 20 patients a day. He said that assuming medical students work 50 weeks a year, he and his 181 classmates could each treat about 7,000 patients a year.

“That’s 1,274,000 patients in a single year,” he said. “So many lives your relative helps us to treat in one year. Your relatives touch the lives of people they will never know.”

Carley Olsen spoke about how the sight of the bright pink nail polish her body donor wore connected her to a childhood babysitter and how she spent time each week polishing the older woman’s hands.

“I painted her nails red, purple, and blue, but her favorite was the bright pink because it got her the most compliments at church,” she said. “Life consists of these most precious moments. Her family members have shown us how fragile and precious life is and we fully appreciate the gift they have given us.”

The service, held at St. Francis Xavier College Church, honors all faith traditions represented in the medical school class. This year’s service included prayers from the traditions of Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

gift body program

Each year, people donate their bodies through the Center for Anatomical Science and Education to the SLU School of Medicine’s Gift Body Program to educate medical students, allied health students, and residents. Between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022, 372 people donated their bodies to SLU.

Saint Louis University’s Gift Body Program is committed to excellence in research and education. The study of human anatomy has long been essential to the training of physicians, physical therapists and other health science professionals.

Twice a year in Sts. buried ashes. Peter and Paul Cemetery, 7030 Gravois Ave. A burial service is conducted by the medical school campus minister and is attended by CASE faculty and staff.

There is a common tombstone at the site with the following inscription: “Saint Louis University and its students gratefully acknowledge the charity of those buried here, who have given their remains to the advancement of medical science.”

Those interested in learning more about the gift body program can call 314-977-8027.


Founded in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of conferring the first medical degree west of the Mississippi. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research and provides healthcare at the local, national and international levels. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious diseases, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disease.

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