[Skip to Content]

Upstate's Anatomical Gift Program returns to its first in-person memorial service April 22, since 2019

For the first time since 2019, Upstate Medical University will hold an in-person memorial service April 22 honoring all who donated their bodies for medical study during the past three years.

Normally this is an annual event, but it was not held during the Covid pandemic when public gatherings were restricted.

Upstate’s Anatomical Gift Program is organized largely by students—medicine, physical therapy and physician assistant—to acknowledge and thank families for the important role their loved ones have played in education.

The service this year will take place at 1 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus. The hourlong service will feature music, poetry and talent done by the medical students. Anywhere from 500 to 700 people attend annually.

During the last 2 years, 350 people donated their bodies to the program, which allows students to study human anatomy—a critical component to the pursuit of medicine and science. For the students, these donors represent their first patients.

“The students are really thankful that they have the opportunity to study and learn for their future careers with the help of our donors,” said Dana M. Mihaila, MD, PhD, director of the Upstate Anatomical Gift Program. “Most of our donors make a pledge during their life expressing their wish to help in medical advancements and education. So, in a way, our students are actually working toward the wish of the donor.”

Family and friends of donors are invited each year and each donor is recognized in the event program. Each year, students choose a quote to be featured on a memorial plaque. The plaque is presented to Dr. Mihaila during the memorial service and then placed in the hallway outside of the anatomy lab as a tribute to the donors.

Mihaila said that even with the latest technology being used in medical school, nothing can replace the experience of having a human body to learn from.

She adds that the memorial service is very touching for family members.

“Family members are very pleased because they can see how thankful the students are,” she said. “And they realize even more that what the donor did was a great act which has a big impact.

Mihaila adds that many participants at the service are moved to donate their bodies as well.

“Usually after we have service, we have a lot of pledges that come to us from people that attended,” she said.

This years’ service will be livestreamed at: https://syracuseuniversity.zoom.us/j/95645614996

To learn more about Upstate’s Anatomical Gift Program visit www.upstate.edu/cdb/donor/ or call 315-464-4348. The website includes the Anatomical Gift Pledge Form as well as frequently asked questions.