Bequeathal Program provides rare opportunities for students, doctors

By on October 1, 2013


To “bequeath” is the act of giving or handing down personal property to another. The donors in this case are the deceased. The legal next of kin honoring the wishes of the donors is an immeasurable gift.

Even without a formal public relations department or advertising, the University of Louisville’s Body Bequeathal program has donors lined up and waiting to give donations. According to Dr. Nicole Herring and Dr. Jennifer Brueckner, the list of enrolled donors is close to six thousand.

“We don’t do a whole lot of public relations. We’re actually very lucky that we have a strong program. It’s primarily word of mouth,” said Dr. Nicole Herring, the director of the bequeathal program and the fresh tissue facility.

Dr. Jennifer Brueckner, the vice-chair of the department, said, “The uniqueness of the donors is that upon their death they are contributing to the betterment of the medical community. The donors give their bodies to the university so that medical and dental students can literally practice how to become well trained doctors, dentists, surgeons and researchers. It is not enough that instructions be limited to books or models. Hands-on orientations are real.” She said that physically examining a real heart that has been surgically repaired can only happen through these type of donations.

Practicing physicians and residents also benefit from the program. The fresh tissue lab serves as a resource where residents and physicians can come to refresh and hone their skills. She said they can practice prior to going into surgery on a live patient.

Respect and professional conduct is required of the students who work with the donors. Brueckner said that even though the donors are expired they still are the loved ones of the families that complied with their wishes to donate. She said they expect the same professionalism towards the donor as they would a living patient.

The cost to donate is free for families of donors living within Jefferson, Clark, and Floyd Counties. All outside of those counties have to pay a per mile transportation charge.

Herring said there are restrictions to who can be a donor. For storage and safety, the very tall and the morbidly obese are precluded from donating, along with those that have infectious diseases.

Herring and Brueckner both say they are proud of the manner in which they take excellent care of the donors. They are strong supporters of the high level of learning that occurs with cadaver donations. They both agree that these are immeasurable gifts for the students and the community.

Additional information regarding the Bequeathal program can be obtained from the website.

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