Donor Memorial Service

I want to write about the Donor Memorial Service that we had for the men and women who donated their bodies to further our medical education. I want to write about the sadness and grief we shared, the inspiring families and loved ones who trekked up the hill for the service, and my amazing peers who planned the entire event, greeted our guests in subzero weather, presented thoughtful speeches and musical performances, and stayed late on a Friday evening to clean up after the event. I don’t think I can do the event justice, even in my own head. Instead, I will share with you the speech that I shared at the service. It follows.

Hello. I would like to welcome to this community. Thank you for being here. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

My name is Anushka. I grew up in Portland, and I am a first year medical student. On August 16th, my colleagues and I walked across this stage one by one, donning the white coats for the very first time. In four years, we hope to walk across this stage as doctors.

These ceremonies do not come without sacrifices.

Our families make difficult financial choices so that we can spend our time here. Our children see less of us. Our partners absorb our stresses, guard our fears, and hold us after long, tiring days.  They reorganize their lives around our sometimes all-consuming goals. We will walk across this stage again because of their commitment. We will also walk across this stage because of you. Most importantly, we will walk across this stage because of those we remember today.

The gift that your loved ones, and you, gave us, the commitment that you all made to our education, is the most fundamental, the bravest, and the most important investment anyone has made in our futures. I have never, and likely never will, receive a gift more personal or more significant than this.

We cannot satisfactorily acknowledge the magnitude of this sacrifice, but we can promise you this: we promise to see this gift, this act of faith, in every patient. We promise to treat our patients and their families with the respect and gratitude that we feel towards you and your loved ones. We promise to remember, acknowledge, and continually be humbled by their role in and commitment to our lives. Steve Prefontaine said, probably not too far from here, that “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” We promise to give our best and honor the gift. We will be the best listeners, the best healers, the best doctors that we possibly can be because of, and in memory of, your loved ones.

On that day in August, my classmates and I embarked on an extraordinary journey together. After a difficult test, a friend reflected that “Looking around during the exam…I can’t help but think about how lucky and fortunate I am to be in this position.” I agree with him, and I know that the journey will continue to amaze, challenge, and overwhelm us. I also know that the journeys we have embarked on by donning these white coats are nothing, nothing, nothing compared to the journeys you took with your loved ones, the moments you celebrated, the challenges you overcame, the memories and grief that you are left with.  I want you to know that we consider your loved ones an inexorable and unforgettable part of our journeys. We remember them, we grew and changed because of them, and we miss them, too.

Thank you again. I wish you health, happiness and peace.



2 responses to “Donor Memorial Service

  1. Anushka, I was there as a family member along with my sister – both our parents were donors to the program. It was a beautiful service and a healing experience to hear you and your classmates talk about your first patients.

  2. What an amazing and thoughtful thing to do to honor those who allow us to learn as students. I’m really touched. Thank you for sharing!

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