Anatomy Donor Memorial

Each year, Johns Hopkins medical students gather for a sacred memorial service to celebrate people they never knew but who nonetheless made a profound impact on their lives. The Anatomy Donor Memorial Ceremony, organized by medical students, honors people who donated their bodies to further medical education.

During the ceremony, medical students say goodbye to their donors and express gratitude for their sacrifice. The event is also an opportunity for everyone in the Johns Hopkins community to honor those who give selflessly in the name of medical education. This year’s event will be held Nov. 9, 6 to 8 p.m., in the Armstrong Medical Education Building.

table at the anatomy memorial

From the Biomedical Odyssey Blog

As the anatomy course for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wraps up toward the beginning of October each year, first-year students must say goodbye to their anatomy donors. Anatomy acts as an introduction to medicine, the human body and the role a medical student plays in their medical education — concepts that can interplay in a variety of ways.

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Close shot of flower bouquet.

Anatomy dissection holds a sacred position in medical education as an essential rite of passage. Many other moments mark our entrance into a noble profession — donning our white coats, receiving our first stethoscopes. But laying our hands on a cadaver is more than a symbolic gesture: It is a full-contact sport — a physical, intellectual and moral crossing of the Rubicon, the beginning of a physician’s journey.

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My Cadaver Had Heavy Hands - Panacea

a picture of a card that a student wrote for their donor

Old hands are heavy, but
their weight cannot be measured.
Palpation of each finger reveals
identity etched into waves on skin
once soft, then worn, now wearing
folds and faded liver spots.
First and final embraces are
imprinted on these palms
that have touched countless others
and given love. Cradled here by
nitrile gloves, though, they are
idle and upturned.

My hand hovers, hesitating…
surely this trespass demands
permission or forgiveness?

Beneath my scalpel,
the tissue parts
with unexpected ease
and peels away like parchment.
Brilliant and smooth, tendons
gleam under a halo
of cold, white light and
lie like bone-tethered beams—
manual machines that used to
know tension but now rest on
nestled rows of rust-tinged fascicles.
I inspect, in reverent wonder
of the memories they hold.

-Ridge Maxson, 4th year medical student

2022 Anatomy Memorial Event in Pictures

White note with cursive writing that reads "I am grateful for the shared experiences of this world and the life we all bring to it."
Decorated table with black tablecloth for the Anatomy Memorial
Close shot of flower bouquet.
Dr. Katherine Chretien speaks at the podium
JHU ROTC Color Guard presenting the flag
Flower bunch on table