UH Med Now

Through the Lens: Remembering our “Silent Teachers”

Date: April 21st, 2017 in Community Outreach, JABSOM News, Student Life, Willed Body Program    Print or PDF

Story and Photos by Amanda Shell, UH Med Now

On Saturday April 8, 2017, medical students from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) warmly greeted the loved ones of 152 “silent teachers”, those who selflessly willed their bodies to medicine, at this year’s Willed Body Memorial Service.

Displays donning portraits and biographies of each donor lined the walls of the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus center ballroom, offering a brief glimpse into the lives and personalities of those who devoted themselves to the mission of medical education.


Student reflections presented by Kaitlynn Ebisutani, MD Class of 2020, Hollyann Loui, MD Class of 2020, and Matthew Lim, MD Class of 2019 expressed sincere gratitude towards the donors and their families. Lim’s reflection described the crucial role of the “silent teachers” and how they contribute to “the humanity of medicine.”

JABSOM Class of 2013 alumnus Michael Tom, MD, (pictured above) reflected on his own experiences as a physician. “Part of our duty as physicians, is to help make choices that reflect the character of our patients and what brings meaning to them.” Dr. Tom said.

“Thinking about that meaning often leads to thinking about their legacy. What will their impact be on those who are left behind? What will come after they have passed? Your loved ones made the unselfish choice to impact people they may never meet or may have never met.”

These poignant remarks were followed by a beautiful hula tribute and song performed by the women and men of the Class of 2020.

Students stood before the cremains and declared their final “mahalo” with golden lei.

A photo slideshow featuring each donor was paired with a moving cello performance by Keahi Horrowitz, MD Class of 2019.

The program closed with words of remembrance given by Chaplain Anke Flohr and remarks from the Willed Body Program Director and Certified Funeral Service practitioner, Steven Labrash.

After the service, students met with the loved ones of their “silent teachers” to exchange stories and to honor the lives and choices of these generous individuals.

“Here we are to celebrate not just your loved ones lives and memories, but their choice – their will to benefit those around them and for that our gratitude is everlasting” said Dr. Tom.

About the Willed Body Program
In death, the Hawaii residents who donated their bodies to the University of Hawaii became mentors to medical students who could not have completely learned anatomy without their extraordinarily unselfish gift. The medical students call them their “silent teachers”, noting that there are many computer-generated ways to learn anatomy today, but none as effective as touch. Through the gift of human bodies, the students embrace the science of anatomy with a profound respect for their common humanity. The annual Willed Body Ceremony is the way JABSOM students say “mahalo”. But it is also a moving, lovely way for the survivors of the program participants to say “aloha”. Read more about our Willed Body Program, part of the JABSOM Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology.

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