When we started Anatomy, I felt overwhelmed by how muted we had to make our donors personhood in order to get through each lab. People routinely told me that they felt like they had to “pretend the bodies were wax models,” or “just think about each part of the body separately.” My classmates who said this are not psychopaths– they are thoughtful and kind people, who simply realized we needed defense mechanisms in order to get through the course. Remembering every lab that your donor was a person with loved ones and favorite foods and memories of spring could make the task at hand impossible. You need some emotional distance in order to dissect heart, remove lungs, or cut through ribs.
But, I am very bad at emotional distance.
I wanted an outlet that balanced out the detachment of anatomy, a space where I could recognize the donors as people with rich and full lives. Giving my time to the Ceremony of Gratitude helped me to feel like I was acknowledging the humanity of the people who donated their bodies to our education. This in turn made it easier for me to continue on with the wild and fascinating ups and downs of the Anatomy course. I also believe that doing things for someone’s loved one is a way of doing something for them. Putting time into this ceremony, feels like the closest I can get to directly communicating with our donors, to thanking them for their time and for the amazing educational gift of anatomy class. It is something I will never forget.
I would like to give a shout out here to the other members of the committee. I gave a medium amount of time but lots of people went really above and beyond to make sure that this event is a success. I hope to see everyone at tomorrow’s event.
Hannah Kerman is a member of AMS’ class of 2021 and a member of the Ceremony of Gratitude planning committee.