By Wendy Sarubbi | February 22, 2016 12:05 pm

Seventeen weeks after being introduced to their “first patient,” Class of 2019 medical students offered their respect and thanks February 18 to the people who had willed their bodies to science and learning.

The annual Send-Off Ceremony is a tradition at the College of Medicine, coming at the end of Anatomy Lab, rite of passage for first-year students. UCF’s curriculum is unique because Anatomy Lab goes far beyond memorizing parts of the body. Instead, students act as detectives, working to determine by dissection and clinical pathology how their first patient died.

The Send-Off Ceremony is designed to bring closure to the lab and an opportunity to thank the “silent teachers” who have trained the minds and hands of tomorrow’s physicians.

First-year student Robert Le said after each lab, he would think about his patient and what he was learning from working with her. “They know they are not going to have a proper wake or funeral and that is not an easy decision (to will your body to science),” said Le. “I think about the service I have ahead of me and the great value of their donation.”

During Anatomy Lab, students only knew the gender, age and occupation of their patient. Through the lab, they worked to determine the cause of death, how the patient’s illness had impacted their life, whether their death had been quick or prolonged, whether they had been active or bed-ridden.

As the teams of students spoke about their first patients, they remarked about the personal aspects that had struck them, such as the painted finger nails of one patient, the youth and beauty of another, how employment as a steelworker had impacted another’s health.

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