Convocation of Thanks

We are pleased to share our 2023 Convocation of Thanks service below. Please share this link with your family and friends.

Mayo Clinic Convocation of Thanks 2023

Hello and welcome to Mayo Clinic's 2023 Convocation of Thanks. My name is Ashleigh Skaalen and I am one of the donor coordinators here at Mayo Clinic's Body Donation Program. I want to thank you all for joining us to recognize and appreciate the generous gift that all of your loved ones gave to Mayo Clinic in order to assist in the educational and research mission. This service is truly dedicated to those who in death have served the living. Each of our donors, by their final compassionate gift, have participated in a great humanitarian and educational endeavor. Today, we honor their memory and acknowledge their generosity.

Because of your loved one's gift, hundreds of students in the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic Health Sciences programs have been able to learn the intricate details of the human body. As you listen to the students today, I hope you will appreciate how your loved ones' generosity will eternally benefit humankind. This benefit stems not only through the quality of health care they will provide to their patients, but also the quality of education they will provide to their students that will eventually succeed them.

In addition to the education of our medical and health science students, there are many physicians and residents who have benefited tremendously as well. This is accomplished through focused educational programs that serve to enhance the practice of medicine.

It has been a long and difficult time for many of you to endure the grief you have felt in the months or years since your loved one passed away. I have also had the privilege to have a loved one donate their body. And I know firsthand how hard that year of waiting is. As you have waited for this service that will assist in bringing closure to your grief, it is my hope that as you listen to our speakers today you will not only find comfort and be uplifted by what they say, but that you will also be able to leave this service proud and with a greater appreciation for what your loved ones have done for humankind. Please know that their legacy will live on with these students and that many lives will be helped because of the selfless gift that all of your loved ones gave. It truly warmed my heart and gave me peace to watch the convocation service then, and I hope today it does the same for you and your family. Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.

Hello, I'm Cassie Fortsch, a body donor coordinator with the Body Donation Program here at Mayo Clinic. We have had the honor to work with you, or someone you know, during one of life's most difficult times. It is myself and the other donor coordinators who walk with you throughout the journey of the donation. What an honor and gift that is. We often think of a gift as something that comes in a box wrapped in special paper, tied neatly with a bowl, or maybe in a gift bag adorned with delicate tissue paper. These gifts differ as they are grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. Each one unique in itself. Each of their bodies revealing their life's journey and telling a story of its own, from long, silvery white hair, calloused hands, from working weathered skin, from being outdoors. And the list goes on. Though their time here on Earth has passed, it is with certainty that your loved one has impacted our learners for a lifetime of not only their own, but also to all of those lives they will touch for many years to come. The students, residents, fellows, consultants, and staff will forever have the educational experience and knowledge because of your loved one's donation.

Our staff that were entrusted to care for your loved one includes Dr. Nirusha Lachman, professor of anatomy and chair of the Clinical Anatomy Department; Dr. Wojciech Pawlina, professor of anatomy; Jonathan Torrens-Burton, operations administrator; Dawn Freshwater, Body Donation Program coordinator; Ashleigh Skaalen, Laine Skadsem and myself, donor coordinators; Karen Mills, Andy Wilhorn, Andrew Kennicutt, Danielle Millen, Karen Oscarson, and BriAnna McCabe, lab associates; Eric Sheahan and Kevin Ness, media specialists.

We want to thank you for honoring your loved ones' wishes and allowing for the donation, the greatest gift of all. It has been our honor to have spent this time with your loved one. It is our hope that this service gives you the confidence and reassurance that your loved one has greatly impacted our learners and our staff.

Dear families of our donors. My name is Punnose Kattil. I'm a fellow in the Department of Clinical Anatomy here at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Over the past year, I have had the honor of working with your loved ones to teach anatomy to our learners in the schools of medicine, the graduate school, and the schools of allied sciences. Which is why I feel a deep sense of responsibility and purpose as I stand before you today. To be able to offer gratitude for this gift your loved ones have given to medical education is truly an honor. The anatomical gifts have provided us with a unique opportunity to teach, learn, and comprehend the complexities of the human body in a way that would not have been possible were it not for their incredible generosity.

While reflecting on their remarkable legacy, I came across some words from Dr. William Mayo. The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered. And in order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.

Your loved ones' bodies have allowed us to unite forces and advance our knowledge so that we may better serve our patients and heal the sick. Another renowned physician, Sir William Osler, recognized the importance of studying the human body when he said, The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade, a calling, not a business. A calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.

Your loved ones' gifts have given us the opportunity to practice this art with greater depth and understanding, and we are forever grateful for this privilege.

Above all else, I wish to acknowledge the profound loss that you, the families of our donors, have experienced. This selfless act by your loved one has not only provided us the greatest teacher we could ever have, but they have enabled us to pay tribute to their lives and their legacy. Nobel laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, Death is not extinguishing the light. It is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. Your loved ones gift has allowed us to see the dawn of new knowledge and understanding. And for this, we carry their light with us always.

In closing, I want to express my deepest sympathies for your loss and acknowledge the immense courage and compassion it takes to make the decision to donate the body of a loved one. This gift of your loved one has allowed us to become better physicians and healers. And we will continue to honor their memory through our work. May their legacy continue to shine brightly as a beacon of hope and healing for all those afflicted and in need of relief.

My name is Maria Peris Celda. I'm a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Rochester dedicated to complex cranio skull-based surgery. I'm also the director of the Rhoton Surgical Anatomy Program in Neurosurgery and ENT. Anatomy is the roadmap for any surgical specialty and this knowledge is absolutely essential to perform safe surgery. I'm privileged to provide advanced surgical training through the Rhoton program, utilizing the most precious and accurate model for training and surgical research, that is human tissue. Students, residents, fellows, and staff, thanks to this generous donation, can discover new ways to treat patients in a more accurate and safe way, and safely perform procedures before treating patients in the operating room. Even with the latest advances in virtual reality and simulation, which are an incredible addition to our learning and discovery, there's no substitute for human tissue. The selfless gift of human bodies to the Mayo Clinic Body Donation Program is essential for clinicians not only to treat our patients, but it also has an exponential impact on global care through research and training.

We are tremendously appreciative of your commitment and this invaluable gift that will result in better care for generations to come. On behalf of all surgical specialties, thank you.

Hello, my name is Beth Cloud-Bieble. I'm an assistant professor and core faculty member in the Mayo Clinic Program in Physical Therapy. I serve as the primary instructor for our program's anatomy course. This is one of the first courses physical therapy students take during their three year doctoral program. As part of this course, my students and I have the privilege to spend a significant amount of time working with donors in the anatomy lab. When I think about the donors in the Mayo Clinic Body Donation Program, words written by Kahlil Gibran come to mind. In his book The Prophet, the chapter entitled On Giving begins with, You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. Give of yourself.

That is exactly what your loved ones have generously done by choosing to be donors. Your loved ones and their generosity have helped create meaningful learning experiences for our physical therapy students and other learners at Mayo Clinic. Your loved ones and their generosity have served as teachers working alongside me and other educators as we support developing health care providers. Your loved ones and their generosity have helped all of us who entered the lab gain a better understanding of human anatomy, of the fragility of life, and of what it means to serve others with compassion. Please allow me to express my sincerest gratitude for the generosity of your loved ones. Their gift of themselves is truly remarkable.

My name is Leda and I am a student in the Mayo Clinic, Alix School of Medicine. Today I will be playing Auf dem Wasser zu singen, by Franz Schubert, transcribed by Franz Liszt.

[Piano music.]

Hi, my name is Sunny Golden and I'm a surgical first assistant student here at the Mayo Clinic. As we age, sobering thoughts about life's brevity and death certainty cause us to wonder how we will be remembered. Surprisingly, those who leave the greatest legacy in their life are often not notable or prominent figures, but kind and humble people. Living with a purpose is the most valuable thing one can do. Your loved ones showed us a purpose that lives beyond death is even more valuable. It never diminishes. Every gift of body donation to science holds the same value to the receiver, no matter the donor's gender, status, wealth, IQ, accomplishments, mistakes. Our gift is the treasure of the human body. Their body. When we get the privilege of learning at the Mayo Clinic's Human Anatomy Lab, we never forget that those hands of the donor comforted people. Those eyes sparkled. That heart pumped with joy and broke with grief at times. Their feet explored and their backs held burdens for loved ones.

Your loved ones believed that donating their body would save lives. They had the courage to be vulnerable, entrusting us to honor their service. They believed that to be vulnerable is not to be weak. On the contrary, to be vulnerable is to be brave. And they were right. Their final accomplishment in life was their greatest legacy. They were kind, they were humble, they were vulnerable. They trusted us. They were selfless and they showed incredible courage. They allowed us to be present with them in life's most private personal moment, death, which for those of us left behind, seems so permanent. But then an amazing thing happens. It springs forth life. Death doesn't get to keep them. As Shakespeare expressed in Sonnet 18, Death won't brag when thou wanderst in his shade, when in eternal lines to time, thou growest.

This confidently proclaims a legacy that can never die. Your loved ones fingerprints are all over the life- giving accomplishments of hundreds of health care workers. This is their legacy. The final lines of Sonnet 18 sum it up perfectly, So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives, and this gives life to thee. Thank you.

Hi, my name is Nada Abou-Haiba, and I'm a first year medical student here at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Rochester. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to learn anatomy through the generosity of the Body Donor Program. I've never taken anatomy course before where I got the chance to learn from real human bodies. It has always been taught to me through texts and drawings and textbooks. But the opportunity to learn anatomical structures through actually holding them and seeing them has enhanced my education in a significant way. This was the first time I was able to actually visualize human anatomy in a context I had never seen before. I was able to see exactly how nerves travel through the body and see how different arteries perfuse different areas of the heart. I was able to see where different muscles insert into bones and put real and tangible images to the different structures of the brain. These were always vague concepts and ideas to me, but seeing them and studying them has allowed me to truly understand and appreciate them. This has been extremely valuable information and I would not have a fraction of the understanding I do now if it had not been for the body donors.

More than just anatomical education, I've gained such an appreciation and respect for the human body and my future patients. To this day, I'm still in awe of the beauty and intricacy, yet simplicity, of the human body. It never fails to astound me. Every day during class, we were reminded of the gift we were given with these body donors. We were instructed to treat them with respect. We were reminded that we were entrusted with these individuals to learn and serve future patients. These donors were my first patient that entrusted me with themselves. This trust is not something I'll ever take for granted. It is a privilege to be in a position where I get the chance to serve someone in a matter as vulnerable as their health and well being. I'll never forget to cherish this role. In the future, I aspire to treat every patient who entrust me with their health with the same level of care, empathy, and respect that were instilled within me through the body donors. For all that I've gained through the body donors' generosity, I'm thankful. The gift of education and patient care that were awarded to me through body donation are ones that will have an impact that will far outlast just my time in the anatomy course. I'll never forget this opportunity. Thank you to the selflessness of the body donors and their families for this unforgettable experience. For it, I will become a better doctor. Thank you.

Hello, my name is Anastasia Froelich, and I'm a surgical first assistant student. I would like to say thank you to all the families that had their loved ones donate their bodies to the anatomy lab. I want you to know before every lab or anatomy lecture, I would always give myself a moment to thank them. I like to think that they can hear or feel my appreciation wherever they are. Here's a poem I wrote and I hope you enjoy. Time does not stop. Circles do not have ends. Life does not end with death. Hearts and souls no longer joined. Body and mind become two, but nature will continue continuing time circling life. Thank you.

Hi there. My name is Zoe Fanning, and I am a second year medical student who had the incredible opportunity to learn from your loved ones during my anatomy course. While I won't be able to fully express my gratitude for the immense gift that you and your families have given, I hope to convey just how impactful this opportunity was on my medical education. I can still recall the nervousness I felt on my way to my first anatomy lab. I didn't know how I'd react to the experience and was worried that I would be overwhelmed and unable to participate. Instead, when the draping was carefully pulled back from my first donor, I was filled with a sense of awe at the tissue and the life it had once contributed to. It was hard to comprehend in that moment the privilege I had been given to be in that room with those people and with that donor, learning from the physical markings of a very real life. In the months since my first day in the anatomy lab, I have had time to process these experiences. I have realized that without them, my relationship to the human body would be exceedingly more distant. Your family members gave me the chance to build an intimate and close knowledge of medicine and human life. I have also realized the astonishing size of the gift that is donating one's body to science and education.

Your family members made a rare choice of selflessness, kindness, generosity, and humanity that will undoubtedly help to improve the health and well being of generations to come. I would also like to take a moment to say thank you to my anatomy course directors and anatomy lab leaders for instilling an environment of respect and appreciation, starting each pro section with a statement of acknowledgment and gratitude. My time spent with these donors has enriched my medical education to an exceedingly high degree. I am and will continue to be immensely grateful for their donation and contribution to medicine.

Hello, I'm Madilyn Goergen. I'm in the surgical first assistant program. Hello, my name is Asfia Numanin. I'm a first year in the MD PhD program. Hello, my name is Rachel Rowenhorst. I'm a first year student in the doctorate of physical therapy program. And now we begin the reading of the names.

Kristine, William, Shirley, Vernon, Genevieve, Robert, Ervin, Gerald, Ernest, Gloria, Deborah, Ursula, Larry, Mary, Robert, John, Gerald, James, Gary LaVerne. Mary Frances, Thomas, Cody, Alan, Carl, Lewis, Colin, Rex, Quentin, Kathleen, Marcia, Clem. Janet, Yvonne, Ronan, Jean, Kenneth, Elaine, Charles, Douglas, Robert, Gerald, Tom, Doreen, Jean, David, Charles, Liz, John, Mary, Walter, Sara, James, Sondra, Dick, Charles, Susan, James, Nira, John, Barbara, Stafford, Nicholas, Chuck, Herbert, Carol, Earl, George, Delores, Nancy, Darlene, Thor, Jeffrey, Allene, John, Steven, Simon, Ell, Beverly, Grant, Russell, Janet, Kathryn, Gary, Ruth, Mary Kay, Michael, John, Claire, Peggy, Shirley, Jerry, JoAnne, Merlyn, William, Howard, Beverly, Dick, James, Daniel, Lori, Charlotte, Wilbert, Myrt, Frank, Linda, Iqbal, Debra, Jacquelyn, Nancy, Lucy, Evelyn, Pamela, Jean, Shorty, Myron, Charles, Harjit, Marisa, Dwight, Linda, Merle, Olive Maizie. Linda, Nancy, Evelyn, Shirley, Marie, Michael, Guinn, Kenneth, Mary Jane, James, Charles, Tom, Jeanne, Doris, Erin, Trudy, Richard, Eunice, Eleanor, BR, Martin, Mary, Mercedes, George, Glen, Stephen, Hank, Roger, Lorraine, Dwight, Dean, Norma, Mike, Carrol, John, Nicole, Lu, Jeff, Jeraldyne, Larry, Shirley, Timothy, Edwin, John, Sethone, Stacy, Tommy, Donald, Raymond, Myrna, Jean, Madalynne, Barbara, Jerry, Robert, Howard, Alice, Ev True, Thomas, Dawn, James, Peter, John Dale, Patricia, Martha, Mavis, Darrell, Leonard, Yvonne, Jack, Lynn, Bob, Mary, Betty Jo. Edna, Richard, Beverly, Ron, Sandra, William.

And this concludes the reading of the names.

Hello, my name is Dawn Freshwater and I am a program coordinator for the Mayo Clinic Body Donation Program. I am honored each day to talk to family members and friends of our donors and also the donors themselves when they call for information as they are considering the gracious gift of donating their body to Mayo Clinic for education. Body donation is not the traditional process most of us are accustomed to when we lose someone we love. I want to thank each of you for honoring your family member's wish. Thank you also for your patience as we cared for your loved one while they educated our future healthcare providers. The gift they gave will carry on for years to come throughout our students' careers in medicine. To honor the veterans in our program, I am privileged to introduce the Honor Guard from American Legion Post 92. They are recorded at the Mayo Clinic vaults at Oakwood Cemetery here in Rochester.

[Honor guard]

My name is Zach Lovig, staff chaplain at Mayo Clinic Rochester. It is my privilege to thank the many people who contributed to the convocation of thanks, from those who spoke, to those who worked behind the scenes. My thanks to you for providing the space and time to remember these beloved donors and inspiration to carry on in their name. In a time of remembrance and grief, the value and need for connections we share have taken on a new significance. To you, the families at home, we at Mayo Clinic can only tell our part of their stories. That as your loved ones' journey with the students concludes, these students will carry the avenues and landscapes of the human body with them in service and support of others. Imagine, at home, how the significance of your loved one's life reaches out to connect with and impact others through the work of the students as they become health care providers. That is the unique gift your family has given. But now as your loved one's physical work with the students comes to its end, we turn to you to continue cherishing their memory and life to guide others that you meet. As you reflect on the lives of the loved ones you remember, pause for a moment and even close your eyes if you feel so inclined. Remember the curve of their smile, the sound of their laughter. Remember one of the thousand little moments that you carry with you now and remind yourselves of who they are and how they, even now, ask you to be their living legacy. Into these precious memories, pour your love and their hopes, carry their aspirations and the promises made. See how we all grew because they walked beside us and you. Through this service we send you now to carry these memories in the hope that their celebrated lives will remind you once again that you are connected to them by your love for them and their hope for you. So let your lives be shaped by theirs as you cherish the soul of who they are. You are invited to open your eyes.

The heritage we've been left and the hopes that have been vested in us are intended to be shared with others. Because you love them still, others will have the privilege to walk with their legacy. With these treasured memories we all carry on with the best of what we were given. I can think of no better way to honor your loved ones than to bless others in their name.

So today, we send you out to tell their stories, to sing their songs to one another. Consider how your loved ones are saving lives and easing pain. Rest in the knowledge that generosity lives on through these students. But even as we near the end of this service, remember to notice and give thanks for the way they live through you, here and now. Thank you.

The Convocation of Thanks is an opportunity for Mayo students and staff who have directly benefited from body donation to say thank you to donors and their families for their generous and altruistic donation.

Convocation of Thanks Program

The Convocation of Thanks service has been an annual tradition since 1985.