The Giving Body

I lit out on a rare journey from my beloved home town to attend a conference in Houston, TX, on the intersection of the humanities & digital technologies. As travelling goes, the experience has been one of the worst. The flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues, and the airline could not find a replacement. So I got one night at the Westin DFW and a $10 dinner voucher for the trouble.

The next day, with little rest, I made it to Houston with no real time for the first day of planned sessions. But I did encounter another scholar who was travelling to Big H to present at a different meeting on medical education. We spent the Super Shuttle drive in from the airport talking about our research.

My ride share was Sheila Crowe, of the Clinical Skills & Testing Center at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Her current project–”Meeting the Family: Promoting Humanism in Gross Anatomy”–gives first year medical students the opportunity to meet the family of those men & women who have donated their bodies to medicine.

Prof. Crowe generously shared an advance copy of her team’s report. “Meeting the Donors” gives the future doctors the chance to hear stories about “the anatomical donor prior to their first dissection experience.” There are only a couple of medical schools in the states trying this out.

There is always a chance that a med student may cope with dissection by becoming too detached or too anxious. Encountering the living history from the person’s family & friends at a Donor Luncheon may help clinical educators broaden the impact of the donor’s humanity while encouraging in the fledgling anatomists “the humanistic qualities of respect, empathy, and compassion.”

The article reporting their findings is slated to appear in an upcoming issue of Routledge’s Teaching & Learning in Medicine: An International Journal.

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