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A Celebration of Life

The Anderson University College of Health Professions, the ultimate gift and the image and likeness of God

Scripture tells us our bodies are more than a collection of cells. More than eye color or hair type. More than height or weight.

Our bodies are a reflection of the divine. We are Imago Dei. The very image and likeness of God.

His handiwork has inspired poets and theologians throughout recorded history, most notably King David. In what is perhaps his most beautiful psalm, he writes:

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works.” (Psalm 139:14)

But that biblical truth carries an inherent contradiction. Our bodies inevitably break down. Eyesight can fail. Hair can thin, fade and fall out. Cells can mutate insidiously. The postscript was written by David’s own son, Solomon:

“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

It is this understanding that informs the approach taken at Anderson University. Educating the entire person—body, mind and soul—requires an integration of faith and learning. And nowhere is this perhaps most evident than in the College of Health Professions’ Cadaver Lab and Gift of Body program.

There is no better way for students who are learning how to treat the human body than to explore the human body itself.

The Anderson University College of Health Professions offers undergraduates and graduates alike such experiences. These experiences are normally only encountered in medical school, and these experiences are only possible when individuals, in their final planning, donate their bodies for this purpose.

In memory of these men and women who have given in this way, and in honor of their families, the College of Health Professions last semester restarted its Celebration of Life Service.

“This service is dedicated to those who, in death, continue to serve the living,” said Dr. Don Peace, dean of the College of Health Professions. “Each of these donors, by their final compassionate gift, has participated in a great humanitarian and educational endeavor.” Dr. Peace also praised the Gift of Body program and its many donors for their important role in making this level of education possible.

In memory of these men and women who have given in this way, and in honor of their families, the College of Health Professions last semester restarted its Celebration of Life Service.

“The Gift of Body program is for individuals wishing to participate in the noble and time-honored practice of donating their bodies to advance scientific discovery after their death,” Dr. Peace said. “Our donor bodies are treated with the utmost respect, and then cremated and returned to the family or interred at the Donor Memorial Garden.”

Cadaver labs are mostly limited to universities that house a medical school. AU’s program is unique in that it was started for School of Nursing students. But in a reflection of the University’s multi-disciplinary approach to education, it benefits students across campus—not just those in Health Professions, Dr. Peace said.

“Anderson University evaluated other clinical programs within the southeastern region that provided an outstanding educational opportunity for anatomic instruction in the best means possible, the study of true human anatomy that could only be done in a cadaver lab environment,” he said. “Our first students were our School of Nursing learners. The Anderson 

University Cadaver Lab provides actual human bodies where health professions students can advance their understanding of human anatomy and physiology in addition to enhancing their practical skills, by exploring and working on human specimens. Now, not only do the School of Nursing students use this lab, but also School of Human Performance, School of Physical Therapy, art students, vocal performance students, biology department and others as needed.”

Students who learn from the Cadaver Lab experience see the profound effect it has on their learning—and their level of gratitude.

“We have dreams of becoming physical therapists and doctors. After we complete our undergraduate studies here at Anderson, we’ll continue on to graduate programs and then our careers, where we’ll spend a lifetime working with the human body,” said AU student Olivia Gassman, who hopes to someday enter medical school. “We’re able to learn so much more than we ever could from just a diagram. We learn how closely related everything is in the body, and how no body system is completely segregated from another.”

“They’ve given us a tremendous and priceless gift. I can’t help but be grateful for this place and the hands-on education I’m receiving,” said Elise Brewster, who is a junior majoring in Kinesiology. She is grateful for the advantages of learning in a smaller lab. “We’re all very thankful for the intimate setting this lab provides. You get such a high level of experience within this approachable environment.”

“Seeing the intricacies of the human body gives us such an appreciation for our God and how intelligent he is,” said Peyton Herndon, a junior majoring in Kinesiology. “How can we see something like this and not believe in our Lord? I think that’s something that will stay with us as much as this knowledge we take away.”

Dr. Nnenna Igwe, associate professor and anatomist in the College of Health Professions, looks forward to future Celebration of Life events. “We’re here because we have support and we’re grateful to (the Gift of Body donors) for all they do for our students to make our lab work,” Dr. Igwe said.