Gift from the dead leaves doctors grateful

© Meryl Levin from Anatomy of Anatomy

The Lane Medical Library is hosting an exhibit that includes the photo above and 16 others from the book Anatomy of Anatomy by Meryl Levin, chronicling the experience of students in a gross anatomy class in 1998 at Weill Medical College at Cornell University.

“When we discovered the hospital bracelet with the date of death on the embalmed wrist of our cadaver, I began to wonder about his last moment of life. . . . What was he thinking about, if anything, as death overtook him? And what compelled him during his life to want to leave is body to science? . . . It was then I realized what a gift from him this was. . . . It’s almost as if we had a tacit agreement to do the best job of dissecting him we could as a way of thanking him and honoring him.”—Cornell medical student as quoted in Anatomy of Anatomy by Meryl Levin.

The above remark captures the feelings of many medical students, as they go through gross anatomy class and dissect cadavers.

That is the subject of a traveling exhibition of photographs, which opened March 1 at Lane Medical Library—the same day that Stanford anatomy students held an annual memorial for the people who donated their bodies to be cadavers for their class.

The 17 pictures in this show are from a book, Anatomy of Anatomy by Meryl Levin, that followed medical students at a New York medical school as they learned anatomy. But the experience was one that many of the medical students here shared, and librarians said that they gazed at the pictures and carefully read the accompanying text.

The show runs through March 25 and is open to the public during library hours.