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Convocation of Thanks Offers Opportunity for NYMC Students to Honor “First Patients”

NYMC students in the SOM and SHSP were able to formally thank the families of those who donated their bodies.

May 09, 2022
Convocation of Thanks

“Your loved ones worked with students who are becoming physicians, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, dentists and with hospital residents who are already physicians and continuing in their education. Collectively, they worked with close to 400 students, and since each of those 400 students is going to go on to work with hundreds or thousands of patients, that is hundreds of thousands of patients whose lives have been improved by the gift that you gave us,” said Roger Bender, M.P.H., director of the NYMC Body Bequeathal Program and instructor of cell biology and anatomy.

“The first day of class was accompanied by the realization that each donor chose to give themselves to complete strangers with the knowledge that they would never meet any of the students whose lives, careers and education they would profoundly impact,” said Valia Gregory, SOM Class of 2025. “I understand that losing a loved one brings a pain and difficulty that is often inconsolable; but I hope it will bring some small comfort to know that these lessons, along with others, will carry the field of medicine forward through my classmates and myself, and that the impact of their final selfless act reaches much farther than just among those of the Class of 2025,” said Ms. Gregory.

“At our first lab, our professors spoke to the importance of treating our donors with utmost respect, caring for them and speaking about them in a way we would regarding any other patient and that set the stage for our anatomy lab experience,” said Rachel Spronz, SOM Class of 2025. “I have since learned that this is not the speech or expectation given to medical students at all schools, which made me extremely grateful that NYMC teaches us to view our whole medical school experience through a humanistic lens.”

Rebecca Harris, SOM Class of 2025, chose art as the vehicle to express her gratitude to her “first patient,” creating a collage depicting herself and her lab mates meeting their donor for the first time. “I created the collage with newspaper because of the significant role that storytelling has in medicine and in our future careers. So much of what humanizes medicine is through storytelling. As doctors, we will be the audiences and collaborators with our patients, sharing in their pain, their trauma, their lost joy.”

Sari Koppel, SLP Class of 2023, closed the program with a particularly moving rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” before attendees moved outside for a planting of a tree near Sunshine Cottage, in remembrance and gratitude of the students' “first patients” and their families. The event concluded with an opportunity for family members to speak privately with the students about their experiences.