More than 20 years ago Richard Chapman and his wife, Donna, made a decision that would not only affect their lives, but also potentially the lives of thousands of other people after their deaths.
The Tonganoxie couple donated their bodies for research.
"She was more into it than I was, but it made sense to me so we both decided to do it," Chapman said about their decision to join the Kansas University Medical Center's Willed Body Program. "She was very thoughtful and was always thinking of other people. She knew this would help out the students in the study of the body."
Donna died in February 2007.
The Chapmans, like thousands of other donors since the program's beginning around 108 years ago, have given their bodies to be studied by first-year medical students. To show their appreciation for such a noble gift, the students held a ceremony Friday to honor donors.
About 400 friends and family of donors gathered inside KU Medical Center's Battenfeld Auditorium to watch as the second-year medical students paid tribute to those who gave their bodies.
Dale Abrahamson, professor and chairman of the department of anatomy and cellular biology, said the yearly tribute was meant to honor the donors for their "selfless contribution," and to thank the families for honoring their loved ones' decisions and to help them understand the choices they made.
"We hope that through our tribute today you will understand better about the importance of their gift and how they will go on and really continue to live in the lives of those that they treat," Abrahamson said.
Student Jeffery Robinson said the ceremony was important.
"It's more touching just to share this expression of our gratitude," Robinson said. "This is an important point of reflection in our medical education. It gives us a chance to think about the decision that these people made in their lifetime. It's an incredibly important kind of educational piece."
Abrahamson said the school receives about 200 donations a year.
The Medical Center is the sole program authorized in the state for the acceptance and use of human remains for education and research. While anatomical instruction is the main purpose of the program, Abrahamson said the bodies also are used to learn and design new surgical approaches or test new instruments before they are approved for use on live patents.
Once students are finished studying the bodies, the cadavers are cremated and either sent back to the family or buried in a group memorial in Lawrence.