Unique medical school program at IUN honors those who donated their bodies
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent July 31, 2014 8:18PM
Students listen to the thoughts of Patricia Kelly who's husband, and eventually herself, was part of the Cadaver Prosection Program at IUN on July 31, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 2, 2014 6:16AM
GARY — Brittany Winn held it together well as she remembered her “Nana,” the late Judy Clemens, of Hebron, at a memorial service Thursday afternoon at Indiana University Northwest.
As a slight breeze blew and clouds partially blocked the sun, Winn placed a pink rose in memory of Clemens beneath a shade tree in a memorial area behind a building at IUN.
Like dozens of others, Clemens was remembered Thursday for donating her body a few years ago to the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program at IU School of Medicine-Northwest.
Winn, of Kouts, who has a degree in forensic science, was one of 55 students taking part in this year’s prosection program, with some of them traveling from the Middle East, Europe, Mexico and elsewhere. The students prepare cadavers for the medical school’s gross anatomy class.
On Thursday, Winn finished her second year in the prosection program, which ends each session with a memorial service for the body donors.
“When you’re the family member, you’re so unsure. In the back of your mind, you think, ‘Is my loved one really getting the respect they deserve?’ ” Winn said. “And me, being a prosector in this program, it’s really brought me a lot of closure and comfort in knowing we are benefiting so much from these donors, and we’re really learning so much and really getting a sense for human honor and dignity. It’s what Nana would’ve wanted me to do.”
Soldiers and sailors, schoolteachers, grandmothers, grandfathers and uncles were remembered for donating their bodies for medical science, known as being among the “first patients” in the program.
Each was remembered with a single rose with a tag line of information — name, military service or cause of death or just a number if a person chose to remain anonymous.
Military veterans, such as the late Lydia Grady, a nurse in World War II who returned to Gary and struggled for equal educational opportunities for everyone, were honored with a rose and small American flags planted in their honor.
“We’d sit down and talk for hours like I was an adult over there,” Gary resident Nora Glenn, who grew up next to Grady, told a group of program participants. “(Grady’s) always been my mentor, and I aspired to be her.”
Like every year, the prosectors were medical school students, doctors and nurses, but the IUN program is unique in the United States in that it allows students who are not medical professionals or medical students.
“I think (the memorial service) changes each time we do it,” said Dr. Ernest Talarico, the program founder and IUN’s associate director of medical education. “The people are from different countries and different cultures. We’re quite different here in what we do. It’s unique among med schools in the U.S., and it’s probably unique among medical schools in the world.”
They do not have programs like IUN’s in Hungary, where Nigerian Grace Braimoh studies at the medical school at the University of Debrecen.
She flew to Indiana, her first time in the United States, to attend the IUN program.
“Not just people in America hear about this program,” Braimoh said. “People around the world hear about it. It looks like very little, but it goes a long way, and it shows me every effort I make can have an impact around the world.”