Research Day

The cadaver memorial: An opportunity to incorporate medical humanities in the WMed anatomy curriculum

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PURPOSE: The cadaver memorial is a time-honored tradition at many medical schools and offers an ideal avenue to integrate elements of the arts into the anatomy curriculum. This presentation describes how the cadaver memorial provides opportunities to integrate medical humanities into the undergraduate medical student anatomy curriculum. METHODS: Incorporation of medical humanities as it pertains to anatomy and the donor memorial is structured longitudinally over M1 and M2 years at WMed. The cadaver memorial occurs in the fall and attendance is required of all M2 students. Components of the medical humanities are, however, introduced during the M1 year. M1 students receive instruction on reflective writing with specific examples taken from the anatomy experience prior to entering the anatomy lab for the first time. Included in these exemplar reflections are student artwork and poetry specific to anatomy. As M2 students, they are responsible for creating and performing the visual and musical components of the ceremony. Additionally, students are encouraged to write a personal reflection about the donor gift and what it has meant to their education and ultimately their future as a physician. RESULTS: Students have successfully created the artistic portion of the cadaver memorial at WMed for the last two years. Students have expressed significant satisfaction reflecting on the anatomy experience, communicating their gratitude to donor families, and collaborating to create memorable artistic representations of that gratitude to be shared with the community. CONCLUSIONS: The cadaver memorial offers a concrete avenue for students to embrace components of the medical humanities, particularly visual arts, creative writing, and music into their professional development. These aspects of the arts can be easily integrated into the anatomy curriculum via student participation in the donor memorial ceremony. The design and implementation of required student participation in the donor memorial provides a practical example of how the medical humanities can be incorporated into the anatomy curriculum.

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