Giving the gift of human experience

During this season of giving, among the precious gifts celebrated at OHSU is that of body donation, which provides health professions students invaluable experiences in practicing procedures and learning about the human body.

Each year, William Cameron, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience, organizes a special reception that brings together families who have donated the bodies of deceased loved ones to science and students across OHSU who have benefitted from this resource in their studies.

Following are reflections from three students who participated in this year’s reception, Dec. 2.

To my donor,

You have given me three gifts, and I am grateful for all of them. The first is a gift of knowledge. You have given me the opportunity to explore, experience, and learn. You have given me a map with which I can navigate the practice of medicine. You have helped my brain create new connections — real physical connections — that will stay with me throughout my life. I know you already live on through your loved ones. I want you to know that you live on through me too. Thank you for this gift of knowledge.

The second is a gift of belief. Your selfless act shows me that you believe in contributing to the world even as you move beyond it. It shows me that you believe in our mission of healing. It shows me that you believe in us as students and us as the future of medicine. Thank you for believing in me.

The third is the gift of this moment. As I look across this auditorium, I see the faces of your loved ones, and I remember that I am here not only to learn, not only to heal, but to be human. To share compassion and gratitude. To aspire to selflessness. To grow as a person. To do the important things that bring purpose and meaning to my life. I am here to engage in our deepest human moments. Moments that I will remember, forever. Thank you for reminding me why I am here.

On behalf of all our students, and from the deepest place in my heart, let me say it just one more time: thank you.

Henry Cameron Norris
Class of 2019, School of Medicine

The laying of hands

I’ve been calling you Maggie, because it seems to fit the set of your shoulders, the sway of your hips, because it rests well on the bridges of your cheekbones.

Maybe I’m hoping to see her in the arch of your nose, soft paper of your hands, maybe reaching toward the time she first helped teach me just how much my hands were good for. So much of this work I think is in learning to trust your hands. I’ve been calling you Maggie so that I don’t get lost in fascial planes and vessels and forget that you were more than flesh and bone. The holiness of skin I think is in its universal weight, in that the heart is placed the same in nearly all of us.

Your heart itself is wider than my two fists spread across, your hands so small, and I am small before the greatness of this gift, of such a miracle of this: to learn to touch.

Kayla Sheridan
Class of 2019, School of Medicine

Every good and perfect gift

When I think of what has been given to us, I immediately think of the Scripture, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

The invaluable gift that these special men and women gave is beyond words; therefore, I know without a shadow of doubt that it is indeed good and perfect!

The field of science brings both wonder and amazement. The contribution that was given by each person brought that wonder and amazement to life. They inspired me to search, question, do and thrive. They taught me to think beyond the “box” and understand that this world is much bigger than self. I will strive to touch and help people the way that these amazing human beings have done to both my classmates and me. The knowledge gained from this one of a kind experience cannot be compared to any that will be gained from this point on. I have been completely transformed by the kindness, selflessness and consideration that it took to make such a priceless decision.img_3573

As our time together ends, I wish to sincerely thank the beautiful man that provided me with education for a lifetime. I will keep him in my heart from this day on with the hope that I can pay it forward in my education, my career and my life. Many people will work their entire lives to leave an imprint on at least one person before they transition from this world, but your loved ones have left a legacy for hundreds of people both known and unknown that will surpass time!

May each family of each individual honored today enjoy their many blessings and find peace and comfort in knowing that your loved one will forever be an inspiration to us all!

Ryan Thrower
Class of 2020, School of Dentistry




One response to “Giving the gift of human experience

  1. Thank you for these comments and for this event, which I’d not heard of before. My grandmother and great aunt (they were sisters) died in 1962 and had their bodies donated to OHSU. As a retired OHSU employee, I find that a comforting and interesting connection.

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