The Last Gift

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Going to medical school was both challenging and exhilarating. Although I have many memories one particular one stands out clearly in my mind as though it happened yesterday. As freshmen medical students we were divided up alphabetically into groups of 4 and assigned to a specific table with a cadaver zipped up inside a body bag. As we filed into the large room the size of a basketball gym we gathered around the table with our names on it. We were all anxious to see what our cadaver was like. But before we were even allowed to unzip the bag the anatomy instructor lectured us on the importance of showing respect to the cadaver and stressed that these people willingly gave their body so that future doctors like us might learn about the human body and in turn be able to help others.

Our cadaver turned out to be an African-American man in his 60’s. We spent 4 months dissecting out every muscle, blood vessel, nerve, organ and bone. I learned more about the human body from that lab than any other class.

When one donates his or her body it is out of generosity, selflessness, and courage. As doctors we all stand on the shoulders of the generous patients who have come before us.

Terry Pfau DO, HMD