The University of Melbourne has the largest and oldest body donor program in Australia, with over 1000 students participating in cadaveric dissection annually. Associate Professor Jennifer Hayes is leading the University’s public acknowledgement of the body donor program through the annual Commemorative Thanksgiving Service.
Associate Professor Hayes’ longstanding interest in anatomical dissection begun during her time as a medical student at the University of Melbourne. Her current role as Associate Professor of Topographic Anatomy at the University sees her knowledge of anatomical dissection being passed on to the next generation. Initially, there was one part of the process Associate Professor Hayes found herself questioning, the issue of gratitude: how could students acknowledge the program’s donors and those close to them? In response to this need, she established the annual donor program Commemorative Thanksgiving Service, for which she has been granted the Excellence in Engagement – Public Value Award 2017.
In 2012, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Medical School, Associate Professor Hayes organised the inaugural Commemorative Thanksgiving Service. This formal service of gratitude invites the family and friends of body donors to meet with the staff and students of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience to formally acknowledge the donor program.
Associate Professor Hayes believes the award “reinforces the University’s gratitude for the educational experience cadaveric dissection provides for its students”. For medical students dissection is their first model for a doctor-patient relationship and for Associate Professor Hayes, “this is the first opportunity to teach and encourage humanistic qualities of respect, empathy and compassion, all of which are an integral part of professionalism in medicine.”
It's about the institution acting as a role model for our students and the wider community in acknowledging the importance of the donor gift. Associate Professor Jennifer Hayes
With over 20 years’ experience teaching in the field, Associate Professor Hayes’ integration of the annual service into her anatomy curriculum provides students with much more than the ability to complete anatomical dissections. Participating in the planning and implementation of the annual service equips students with the skills required for a life of professional contribution, leadership and active citizenship.