Susan Webster

Student physical therapists with Dr. Jim Mansoor at the memorial service.

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Student Physical Therapists Honor Donors with Memorial Service

Jan 28, 2013

Physical Therapy (PT) students Edward Gutierrez ‘14, Elisa Carey ‘14, Catherine Vo ‘13, and Jacob Stroman ‘13 joined Dr. Jim Mansoor, Anatomy Professor, the UC Davis Body Donation Memorial Service on September 22, 2012. The UC Davis School of Medicine students organized a special ceremony to recognize the individuals who donated their bodies to support medical research and education. Pacific's Doctor of Physical Therapy program uses six of these donated bodies each year for Dr. Mansoor's Anatomy class. Vo, a second year PT student, was a featured and favorite speaker at the memorial. Vo eloquently spoke about her appreciation for the donated cadaver,

"When we removed the coverings on the bodies, I didn't feel any intense emotions like I had thought I would. I wasn't scared, I wasn't nervous, and I didn't feel uncomfortable. We behaved respectfully, felt grateful for our cadavers each day, and worked very hard; that was the extent of how we felt. But their faces and hands were covered with cloth. The parts of my group's body donor that made her most human were concealed. Honestly, we were afraid to see what was underneath. We kept them covered throughout the semester until it was time in our curriculum to look at them.

When we uncovered her hands, it was the first time I learned something about her that had nothing to do with muscles, arteries, or nerves. I learned that she liked a certain color of nail polish. Or I learned that she liked to have pretty hands. Maybe I learned that she had a dear friend or family member come visit her in the hospital and painting her nails was the way they spent time together. I'm not sure exactly what I learned when I saw the bright nail polish, but I do know this: I learned to see her differently. I saw her not just as a human body, but as a human being.

This changed my experience for the rest of the semester. I was more careful with her. I grew to like her. Sometimes I was proud of her - for having ligaments that were easy to identify or for having the most beautifully functional lungs I'd ever seen in my life.

Later we finally uncovered her face. She had these beautiful, colorful eyes. Then I remembered that one of the first things a professor told us in school was that when we meet a patient for the first time and shake hands, we look hard enough to know the eye color. That was when it hit me. She was more than a body donor for our anatomy lab; she was our first patient upon entering physical therapy school.

It was our responsibility to use the tools and resources we had and explore the structures we had to learn. It was our responsibility to take care of her and keep her clean. It was our privilege to have her with us for the past year.

I can hardly express just how valuable my class' anatomy and kinesiology experiences were in that lab. This was nothing like studying books or pictures - we were learning about people from people.

I can say with great confidence that because of the people we are honoring today, an innumerable amount of students are going to demonstrate the kind of knowledge and reasoning that will make them exceptional clinicians."

After the beautiful memorial service, Vo and her classmates visited the Freeborn Hall foyer where they visited tables with memorial displays for the departed loved ones. They saw framed photos, and collage photo posters. One framed picture of a young woman had her elementary school teacher's badge draped around the frame.

Pacific PT students perform full cadaver dissection throughout the Gross Anatomy course. All students use the cadavers as part of their presentations in other courses (Kinesiology I and II, Pathophysiology). Research projects are also conducted by students (under faculty guidance) using the cadavers, generating two or three poster presentations at state or national PT conferences.

Pacific PT alumni Rich Rose '09 stated, "Every student in our program would tell you that at no other time, and no other place, could we have received the completeness of learning the human body in the way that our anatomy dissection coursework has allowed us. Having anatomy dissection in our curriculum not only makes us realize the unique privilege we have had, but also prepares us to treat our future patients."