CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hospice Hawaii Chaplain Clarence Liu prepared to bless the ashes of individuals who donated their bodies for medical studies by University of Hawaii medical students. The memorial service took place at auditorium in the John A. Burns School of Medicine yesterday in Kakaako and was attended by family, friends and medical students.
Donated bodies merit gratefulness
For the past two years, said Nalani Grace, she and three classmates worked with Joan, a retired housekeeper, who "was always a member of our group."
Joan was one of 75 "silent teachers" of University of Hawaii medical students honored yesterday for willing their bodies to the anatomy department for medical science and education.
"The donations we remember today are the ultimate contributions to our education," said Grace, a second-year medical student. "Thank you to you family members for trusting your loved ones to our temporary care."
The 150-seat auditorium in the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako overflowed with more than 180 family members attending the annual memorial service.
Hospice Hawaii Chaplain Clarence Liu said the Willed Body Program represents "an ongoing miracle of life -- the giving and receiving." The donors have taught the students lessons that will last throughout life and on to the next generation, he said.
Medical students expressed their gratitude in touching tributes to the donors as they appeared in life in a slide-show presentation in the background.
Kisako Saikami, who died in 2006 at age 82, was pictured during a trip around the world, noted her sister, Natsue Fujimoto. "She had a big smile."
Fujimoto, at the service with her daughter, Carol, said they plan to scatter her sister's ashes at sea, possibly off Maui where she was born.
Phyllis Adam was almost 90 when she died in June 2006 and willed her body to the medical school, said her daughter, Rosemary Adam-Terem. "She was a humanist" who believed "things should be useful and scientific," Adam-Terem said.
She said she and her husband, Bulent, and their son, a paddler, will take her mother's ashes to sea. "She always wanted to go in a canoe," Adam-Terem said.
The Hawaii Yacht Club provided canoes to scatter ashes of 35 of the donors at sea yesterday afternoon, said Steve Labrash, director of the Willed Body Program. Two families with cremated remains from earlier services also planned to send them with this year's group, he said.
Some medical students joined the paddlers, and families watched from Magic Island.
The donors included three husband-and-wife teams, Labrash said. The husbands died and donated their bodies to the school in earlier years and the anatomy department was asked to keep the remains until their wives died, he said.
Welcoming the families, first-year student Shelbi Jim On said, "The intricacies of the human body cannot be fully understood through lectures, books and pictures alone and your loved ones have made our education possible."
"Generous, selfless, considerate and thoughtful," said Michelle Sablan, first-year medical student, describing the donors. "In essence, your loved ones were like our first patients. They have afforded us the opportunity to study beyond our textbooks."
First-year student Karen Dong said, "I think this is one of the most resounding ways a person can be remembered, not by making sure your name is in the history books but by having the forethought to care for the next generation."
Besides gaining invaluable knowledge from the donors, the students learned the elements of respect and caring, which they will pass on to patients, said Brad Sako, second-year student.
Labrash said the Willed Body Program has grown from about 50 donations per year four years ago to about 70 per year. About 90 percent are self-enrolled, he said.
For more information about the program, call 692-1445.