School of Medicine

Medical students, faculty honor body donors

Medical student Sai Pinni sings "Halo" by Beyoncé to honor people who donated their bodies to Washington University School of Medicine. Such donors were celebrated in a recent remembrance ceremony for them on the Medical Campus. (Photo: Tara Stetler)

One of a medical student’s most powerful teachers inspires compassion, forgives mistakes and leaves an indelible impression that forever guides that student’s clinical care and research, all without ever saying a word.

That silent teacher is also a student’s first patient. At Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, they meet during first-year anatomy class.

These patient-teachers are the bodies of people who decided while still alive to donate their bodies to advance medical education and biomedical research.

“The first time I met my donor was the day I remember most from medical school, because it marked my journey to becoming a doctor,” said Kushi Mallikarjun, an upcoming fourth-year student who plans to pursue radiology. “I remember being struck with immense gratitude for my donor, and I continue to feel gratitude every day for lessons I learned from my silent teacher and first patient.”

On June 16, Mallikarjun joined about 200 of his peers from the Classes of 2023 and 2024 in honoring the lives of 400 donors. Along with students and faculty, loved ones of the deceased visited the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus for the Donor Remembrance Ceremony. The event included personal reflections, poetry, and musical performances that preceded a reverent reading of donor names and the lighting of battery-operated candles.

Other loved ones joined the ceremony from across the globe via livestream.

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