CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
The ashes of 57 individuals who willed their bodies to the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine rested on a table Saturday during a service held in their honor.
Medical students thank body donors as teachers
Residents who donate their bodies to the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine could save lives by helping them become better doctors, medical students say.
"They are our silent teachers," said Tom Sanford, second-year student in the Anatomy Department.
Heather Motonaga, a first-year medical student, said the donations are an "amazing present," giving the students an opportunity to learn and improve their skills.
The medical students expressed their gratitude at a memorial service this weekend for families of 57 residents who donated their bodies in the past year for medical education.
"Each donor has left a legacy and inspiration," said first-year student Melanie Payanal. "They are changing humanity for the better."
In the past, the ceremony was held every two years, but it has grown so much it is now being done annually, said Steve Labrash, director of the Anatomy Department's Willed Body Program.
"People for the most part are unaware that we have a donor program," he said. However, about 90 percent of the donations are people who contacted the school while alive, he said. About 4,000 living residents are enrolled in the program, he said.
Kathy Titchen, widow of former Star-Bulletin photographer Jack (John) Titchen, said he decided to donate his body to the medical school long before he died on March 10, 2006.
She and their daughter, Carol Yee, were among family members touched by the memorial service and student comments.
Videos of the donors at work and play during their lives were shown on large screens during the ceremony.
"They are indeed the living tapestry that goes beyond even death," said the Rev. Nathan Kohashi. "They can make a difference in the life and quality of life in others."
With help from the Waikiki Yacht Club, ashes of 30 donors were scattered at sea while families watched from Magic Island.
"I'm blessed, really blessed," Labrash said. "I'm lucky enough to deal with the families on a daily basis, and the one day families and students come together, for me it's an emotional payoff."
To learn more about the program, call 692-1445.