'Blessing of the Cadavers' ceremony in Dubuque thanks body donor - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Blessing of the Cadavers' ceremony in Dubuque thanks body donors

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Clarke University faculty members and students offer prayers and thanks at a Blessing of the Cadavers ceremony Wednesday Clarke University faculty members and students offer prayers and thanks at a Blessing of the Cadavers ceremony Wednesday

Clarke University in Dubuque held a 'Blessing of the Cadavers' service Wednesday morning to honor the people who donated their bodies to science.

More than 100 students and faculty members at this Catholic University packed into the anatomy lab to pay respects to the 10 men and women whose shrouded and well-covered bodies rested on medical examination tables in the room.

Michelle Slover is a professor and chair of Clarke's biology department and helped lead the ceremony.

"I like that we take this moment before we start learning from the donors," Slover said. "It sets the tone for the lab, for the level of respect that we have for our donors and their families."

She added it also helps ease the fears of some students who may be nervous about working in the lab with a human body.

Brittany Gosse is a second-year doctorate of physical therapy student, who has worked extensively with the cadavers at Clarke in her course of study.

"It gives you a good visualization, so when someone comes into the clinic - for me, particularly - and they have back pain or they have leg pain, you can see the structures and you have an idea what the structures look like underneath the skin and what structures are in the area that may be causing the problem," Gosse explained.

The cadavers are the bodies of people who donated their remains to the University of Iowa's Deeded Body Program. Every year, Clarke University purchases 10 bodies from U of I and hosts a Blessing of the Cadavers service before classwork involving the bodies begins.

The cadavers are used in two classes, one of which has students dissect the bodies. At the end of each school year, the cadavers return to the University of Iowa, which cremates the remains. The ashes are either given to family members or buried.

Clarke's campus ministry director Anastasia Nicklaus said the bodies are treated with the utmost respect and the school thanks the families of the donors as well.

"I would want the families just to know the deep gratitude that everyone here has and just to recognize that their gift of this person's body is helping so many people throughout time," Nicklaus said.

All students know about the cadavers are their sex, how old the person was when he or she died and the person's cause of death. No names or other identifying information are provided.

The University of Iowa's Deeded Body Program is holding a similar ceremony later this week. The annual memorial service will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Iowa City's Oakland Cemetery. In case of rain, the will happen at 2 p.m. Friday in St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. The service will honor those who have donated their bodies to the advancement of science education.

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