Ashleigh Skaalen: Good morning and welcome to Mayo Clinic’s Convocation of Thanks 2024. This year marks our 40th annual service to celebrate and thank our donors and their families. My name is Ashleigh Skaalen, and I am one of the donor coordinators here at Mayo Clinic’s Body Donation Program. Just a couple of housekeeping things before we get started. If you have not already, please silence or turn off your cell phones. Please also note that we are video recording the service, and we do have Mayo photographers that will be taking photos. So we do ask that there are no photos or video recording of the service with any personal devices. We do also have a slight change to the service. As you notice, in the program, Dr. Gustavo Knop unfortunately was called away. He does some transplants. So he was actually called away and he will not be able to speak today.

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 is the first time since 2019 that we have been able to gather in person.

It is so wonderful to look out and see everyone’s faces, talk with you all, shake your hands, or exchange an embrace.

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 this gift that your loved ones have so graciously given, 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 one’s generosity will forever benefit humankind. This benefit stems not only through the quality of healthcare they will provide to their patients, but also the quality of education they will provide to their students that will follow in their footsteps.

In addition to the education of our medical and health sciences 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 year since your loved one has passed away. It has been eight years since I have sat where you all are today, watching this amazing service for my own loved one. 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 of the selfless gift your loved one gave. Please know that their legacy will live on with these students and future healthcare professionals. 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.

Laine Skadsem: Good morning, and welcome. My name is Laine Skadsem, and I am one of the donor coordinators here in the Body Donation Program at Mayo Clinic. Body donation is a selfless act. It’s a sacrifice. The end of an honorable quest. It is the last and final act a person can perform for humankind, a true and noble gift, not only from the donor, but from their family as well. This service today is to honor and thank our donors and their families for allowing us to learn and build our medical foundations, practice surgical skills and procedures, and imagine the future of the healthcare industry. It is nothing, if not a bold step to reach an unreachable star.

Today I’d like to share a piece from Man of La Mancha, a 1965 Broadway musical. This is the song of Don Quixote entitled The Impossible Dream. To dream the impossible dream to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go. To right the unrightable wrong, to love pure and chase from afar, to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star. This is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right, without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause. And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest. And the world will be better for this, that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star.

Your loved one’s quest, from the moment of conception until their last breath, told a story. Maybe they suffered a difficult childhood. Maybe they had great fortune. Maybe they were diagnosed with cancer. Or maybe they underwent challenges that tested their faith beyond measure. But no matter their journey, every wrinkle, every scar, every blemish told a story. When they arrived in our care, we were privileged to be a part of that story. We became entrusted with their quest. And in that quest, our medical students, residents, fellows, research and clinical practitioners were able to step forward in their careers, and the world will be better for this. The staff that were given the honor of caring for your loved one includes Dr. Nirusha Lachman, professor of anatomy and chair of the Clinical Anatomy Department; Dr. Wojciech Pawlina, professor of anatomy; Dr. Punnose Kattil, associate professor of anatomy; Dr. Yolanda Salinas-Alvarez, associate professor of anatomy; Dr. Uma Pandalai, anatomy fellow; Jonathan Torrens-Burton, operations administrator; Dawn Freshwater, Body Donation Program coordinator; Ashleigh Skaalen and myself, donor coordinators; along with the former donor coordinator Cassie Fortsch; Andrew Wilhorn; Karen Mills; Andrew Kennicutt; Jodie Finstuen; Danielle Millen; Karen Oscarson and BriAnna McCabe, lab associates; Eric Sheahan and Kevin Ness, media specialists.

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough given the incredible gift of your loved one’s donation. But we hope that today, as you hear from students and physicians, you will see just how grateful we are here at Mayo Clinic and how it impacts not just our lives, but the lives of future patients. Thank you.

Helga Olson: Good morning. My name is Helga Olson, and I’m one of the instructors in the Surgical First Assistant Program. It is both a solemn honor and a profound privilege to stand before you today to express our deepest gratitude for the individual gifts bestowed upon us by your loved one’s donation. Each donation represents an act of extraordinary generosity, a selfless commitment to advancing the frontiers of knowledge and medicine. These precious gifts serve as a cornerstone of our educational programs, providing invaluable learning opportunities for our students, residents and fellows. Through the selfless act of donation, our first patients become our greatest teachers, imparting lessons that cannot be found in textbooks or lectures. It is a gift that will be forever treasured, not only us at Mayo Clinic, but by the countless patients, whose lives will be touched and transformed by the knowledge gained through their selfless act.

However, behind each donation lies a deeply personal story, a legacy of love and a family left behind to mourn. Today, we acknowledge and honor our families of our donors, whose unwavering support and understanding make these gifts possible. Your loved one’s decision to donate reflects the values and virtues instilled in them by their families. And for that we are eternally grateful. We recognize the sacrifices they have made and the profound impact their contributions will have on the future of medicine. Their legacy lies in the work we do every day, inspiring us to strive for excellence and compassion in all aspects of patient care and surgical practice. To the families gathered here today and those unable to join us, please accept our heartfelt thanks and deepest sympathies. Your loved one’s selfless act of generosity will be cherished and remembered, not only within the walls of Mayo Clinic, but by the countless patients and families whose lives will be touched and transformed by the advancements made possible through their contributions.

In closing, let us take a moment to reflect on the profound impact of this noble act of giving. Les us honor the memory of these extraordinary individuals by committing ourselves to the pursuit of excellence and compassion in all aspects of our lives. May their legacy serve as a beacon of light, guiding us to strive for a world where kindness, empathy, and generosity prevail. Let us thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their extraordinary generosity and selflessness. Thank you.

William Chow: My name is William Chow, a first-year medical student here at Mayo. Today I’ll be playing Impromptu No. 3, Op. 90 by Franz Schubert on the piano. [piano performance]

Jackson Adamowicz: Good morning, families, friends and loved ones. My name is Jackson Adamowicz. I am a first-year doctor of physical therapy student. Today I stand before you not just as a student, but as a beneficiary of one of the most profound gifts that I have received in my journey to becoming a healthcare professional. When we were asked for volunteers for this event, I was more than willing to share just how deeply that this has impacted me. It has been an integral part of my education, and the generosity of your loved ones has deeply touched my life. You see, when you enter into your first year of physical therapy school, the first thing that the second year students will be quick to tell you is the amount of work that you have to put in during your first semester anatomy course. A personal challenge of mine is that I have never really been able to take two-dimensional images, like a picture or a figure in a textbook or presentation, and wrap my brain around them. As you can imagine, facing this challenge, I was a little overwhelmed with the level of detail through textbook images and lecture presentations. In the anatomy lab, however, we had the opportunity to really take a deep dive and elevate our learnings in ways that I have never experienced before. All of a sudden, everything started clicking for me. In that lab, I also learned way more than just the structure and function of the human body. I’ve learned to appreciate the complexity of our amazing bodies, and perhaps more importantly, about the incredible generosity of the human spirit. Each donor became like a silent teacher, getting my hands, heart, and mind through the complexities of human anatomy. These experiences have been foundational, not just in acquiring knowledge, but in shaping my approach to patient care. Seeing the details of the human body, understanding how every muscle, nerve, and vessel connects and interacts together, has instilled in me a profound respect for the human form and the intricacies of life.

Your loved one’s donations allowed me to practice and refine my skills in a way no textbook of simulation could every match. They have been a part of teaching me the importance of precision, empathy, and the continuous pursuit of excellence in healthcare. As we students and future healthcare professionals continue our journeys in healthcare, we are deeply aware of the gift we have been given through your and your loved one’s generosity. Please know that your loved ones’ contributions are honored and remembered in every step we as future healthcare workers take towards helping others heal.

So thank you for this unparalleled gift of learning and growth. It is the legacy that will continue to impact lives far beyond the walls of our classrooms and clinics. Thank you.

Jocelyn Nelson: Good morning, everyone. My name is Jocelyn Nelson. I’m a student, first-year student, of the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Program. I would like to thank every one of you for being here today, and I know for some of you making the trip to Rochester for this beautiful spring weekend. However, my biggest thank you goes to each and every single family member that helped each other make this decision in giving such a beautiful gift. I know both sides of today very well. Last year as a family member celebrating life, and today as a student. Thank you. So now, I would like to read a poem by Maya Angelou, When the Great Trees Fall. When the great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder. Lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety. When great trees fall in forest, small things recoil into silence. Their senses eroded beyond fear. When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare and sterile. We breathe briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken. Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves. And when a great soul dies, after a period, peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our sense, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed. Thank you.

Alec James: Good morning, everybody. My name is Alec James, and I’m part of the Surgical First Assistant Program. I found the best way that I could extend my gratitude to each and every one of you here today was through the use of poetry. So I've decided to write an original poem entitled The Many Ways a River Flows. A loving hug, a compassionate heart, profound impact that will never depart. A ripple in the water, a wave surfing to land. Love transcends all boundaries like an outstretched hand. In the wake of despair where we feel we can't swim, let us raise up our heads as the memories never dim. Like the tranquil shoreline or the ferocious waterfall, we can always find peace in the hearts of those we call. As the river flows like a ribbon along its calm, serene bank, for this beautiful offering we've been bestowed, it is you that we must thank. The beauty in the air so tender as the creek. We are beyond grateful, as each story is unique. Our hearts pour out overwhelmed by the power of your gift. And with this cherished stone in hand, you will never be left adrift. Let the river of life flow profoundly in us all, and our memories a skipping stone for this celebration of life and love like the river, its impact it has shown.

Mark: Hello, and welcome, everybody. My name is Mark. I'm a first year doctor of physical therapy student. Today, I'm going to be performing a piece on guitar called Something Blue by the composer and

guitarist Kenta Yago. [guitar performance]

Jackson Bloch: Good morning. My name is Jackson Bloch, and I'm a first year medical student. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. When I started medical school, I expected to learn science of medicine from my professors. It was their role after all to teach. But I did not anticipate how much I would learn about the meaning of medicine from patients or how much they would inform the qualities I hope to cultivate as a journey into this profession. I would like to reflect briefly on these contributions from my first patients, the donors of our anatomy class who we remember today. At first, anatomy felt like memorizing long lists of anatomical structures. This knowledge is crucial. Some of it can also be learned in a textbook. Over time, though, I began to pay attention. Pay attention not just to the names of muscles, nerves, and arteries, but to their beautiful patterns, and infinite complexity. This complexity allows us to function. It makes us vulnerable, and it helps us to heal, and it is impossible to learn in a textbook. I realize the donors were teaching us about the delicate nuance and resiliency of our own bodies. I still think this education is unique to their profound gift. I now believe that our time spent with the donors was not about mastering anatomy. Instead, the donors taught me that to respect my patients is to pay attention to notice, to be present with them. That it is my responsibility to my patients to remain curious about their exquisite details, foundational patterns, and new questions. That our knowledge is both personally and scientifically limited and that I should remain humble as I pursue a deeper understanding, and that I am entering a profession full of wonder and inspiration if I take the time to look for it.

The gift that the donors made to our programs is remarkable. I hope that in striving to integrate their many lessons into our care of patients. My colleagues and I will help each of their contributions endure. Thank you.

Ruthy Xu: Good morning, everyone. My name is Ruthy Xu. I'm a first year medical student. It is my honor today to be sharing my stories and gratitude for working with our donors. I grew up in one of the inner city neighborhoods in one of the largest cities in China. With my mom often on call, and my dad always away on business trips, I was raised mostly by my grandparents. My grandmother, a woman of very few words, was actually a microbiology professor who was sent to the farmlands to be reformed during the Cultural Revolution. She was quite a character. I have fond memories of her holding my hand, taking me to kindergarten. I remember one time when it was supposed to be nap time, and I was freaking out about a bug crawling across the ceiling. She reassured me that everything was okay, but then rattled on about all the infectious diseases that bugs can carry. Morbid, perhaps, but it was strangely endearing and comforting to me. Those were also the early childhood days that set the foundation to my values of working with donors. Through my grandmother's stories about research and medicine, she sometimes would talk about working with donors, always referring to them as teachers. A term I heard again and again as I grew up. September of 2023, it was the first time I stepped foot in the anatomy lab. I was excited but anxious. I was excited to learn. I knew my values. I knew how this course was going to go. But I was anxious. How was all of this going to translate into reality? How was I going to work with our donors correctly? The first couple of days flew by as we learned about the back muscles, and then the anxiety grew as we started learning about the arms and hands. The hands, they felt like such an intimate and identifying feature of the tapestry that is our body. I remember during the session, I was looking for the interosseous muscles, small muscles in our hand that brought our fingers apart and together. I held the donor's hand in my hands, my fingers gently resting on their palm. And I saw the fine lines, the wrinkles, the spots that could only have developed from a life worth of stories. And it clicked. It was in that moment when I saw a life of stories unfold in front of me that I truly felt like I was there with a teacher, holding my hands and taking me to school, much like the way my grandmother did, sharing their life and knowledge, much like a lot of my mentors have done over the years. Since then, I've taken the knowledge from anatomy to clinical courseworks and shadowing to better understand the human body. But it's really the immense respect, gratitude, and connectedness that really stuck with me. I think about how much trust and life patients put into my hands as a future physician, and I can't help but want to make a difference. I recently spoke with my grandmother through video chat. And being the woman of few words, she simply said, Do good. And I wonder, I wonder, if your loved ones, my teachers, would have wanted me to do the same. Thank you.

Sarh Loken: Good morning. My name is Sarah Loken, and I am a student in the Nurse Anesthesia Program. For nearly eight years before starting this journey, I served as a bedside nurse in the intensive care units here. Some of my most fond memories were working with patients and families and helping provide a dignified experience as they left this Earth. In those moments, I often asked family members to tell me more about the patient, as I was often unable to get to know the patient in the way I wish I could. I would ask what the patient liked, how they will be remembered. What made them laugh? What hard things they had been through, their quirks, the music they liked, the stories that they shared, and so much more. Listening to the family talk and share about the patient gave me insight to the patient that I was truly caring for. It often provided comfort not just to the family, but truly to me as the nurse taking care of them. So as we started anatomy, I was very excited to delve in and truly understand the body in a way that I had never had before. I certainly did learn. But I also wondered about this person, not just their body, but the person. As we discussed muscles of facial expression, I wondered what made these donors smile. When peering at their vocal cords, I wondered about the voice they once carried, the words that they had said or the songs that they had sang. When looking at their feet, I wondered where they had traveled. When looking at their hands, I wondered about the work that they had done. I wondered what their eyes had seen, what tears they had shared. When learning about their brain, I wondered about what information they were experts on, what lessons they had learned from mistakes they had made, who they had loved, and what memories they had shared. I wondered what their interest in science and medicine was that made them so selflessly gift their body to somebody like me, solely for the reason to let me learn. I want you to know that every time we work with the donors, they are called by name, and they are thanked. And though through my journey, my understanding of the human body has expanded exponentially, paralleled by my curiosity of who these people were and the lives that they lived. So thank you for sharing your loved one with me, not only to help me learn, but to be inspired by the legacy that your loved one holds, even after they left this Earth. Thank you.

Zerahiah Joseph: Good morning. My name is Zerahiah Joseph, a first-year medical student. I'll be performing Oh How He Loves You and Me, a hymn arrangement by Bill Goerge and Dino Kartsonakis. [piano performance]

Tucker Diamond-Ames: Hello. My name is Tucker Diamond-Ames, and I'm a first-year medical student. I'm really honored by the privilege to speak about some of the donors today.

Elyse Hayes: Hi. My name is Elyse Hayes, and I am a first-year student of the physical therapy doctoral program here. I hope that I honor each of you and all of your loved ones in speaking their names today.

Elizabeth Ingersent: Hi. My name is Elizabeth Ingersent. I'm a first-year medical student. We will now begin the reading of the names. [reading of the names]

This concludes the reading of the names.

Andy Tom: Good morning everyone, and thanks for coming. My name is Andy Tom. I'm a first year medical student. Prior to medical school, I spent almost ten years in the Marine Corps in the Army. And today it is my privilege to introduce and welcome our honor guard from American Legion Post 92. [honor guard music]

Zach Lovig: Good morning. My name is Zach Lovig, chaplain at Mayo Clinic serving both pediatric and adult palliative care. As one particularly acquainted with death, we know that time does not determine meaning alone. Nor does preparation give us the ability to avoid grief. And so knowing how significant these moments are, it is my privilege to thank those, many people who contributed to this 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 the connections we share take on a new significance. So to you, the families who are gathered to remember, we at Mayo Clinic can only tell our part of their stories. We have agreed that as your loved ones' journey with us concludes, the students will carry the avenues and the landscape of the human body and spirit with them in service and support of others. And so traveling home, imagine the significance of your loved ones' life as it reaches out to connect with and impact others through the work of the students as they become healthcare providers. Try to remember some of the faces that you've seen. Imagine them going out, doing their work because of those you remember. This is the unique gift that your family has given. But now as your loved ones' physical work with the student comes to its end, we turn to you now to continue cherishing their memory and life and let it guide others and be a source of support to those that you meet. As you continue the work to reflect on the lives of the loved ones that you remember, pause for a moment, and even close your eyes, if you're willing. Remember the curve of their smile. Recall the sound of their laughter. Remember one, just 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 legacies. Into those precious and private memories for your love and their hopes, carry their aspirations and the promises that have been made, see how everyone gathered here grew because they walked beside us and you. And don't forget just as our lives have been improved for them, you were undoubtedly an important improvement and blessing in their lives. So through this service, we send you now to carry the hopes and celebrations and remind you and each other once again that you are connected to them by your memory for them, and their hopes for you, so let your lives be shaped by theirs as you honor the soul of who they are. If you have not yet, please open your eyes. The heritage we've been left and the hopes that have been vested in us in you, they are intended to be shared with others. Because you knew them, others will have the privilege to walk with their legacy through you. With these honest memories, we all hope to carry on the best of what we were given. I can think of no better way to honor your loved ones and to bless others in their name. So today, we gather and we send you out to tell their stories, to sing their songs to one another. Consider how your family members are saving lives and easing pain. Rest in the knowledge that their generosity lives on through these many students. The work of healing and grief continues for us all as we commit ourselves to a future we'll endeavor to infuse with hope. Even as we come to the end of our service, remember to notice and to give thanks for the way they live on through you and through us. Thank you. And as this concludes our Convocation of Thanks, you are now invited to join our students and staff for refreshments in ballrooms two and three, which you will be able to find by turning left after you exit this ballroom and following the signs that point you as where you should go. So with that, many blessings to you, thank you, as our service concludes in memory and in thanks.