Beauty of WILLED BODY CEREMONY stirs letters of thanks from loved ones; Mahalo from Dr. Lozanoff to MD Students

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BY TINA SHELTON – Some of the more than 300 people who attended April 14′s Willed Body Memorial Service have written to the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), expressing their gratitude for the warmth and beauty of the event.

“Mahalo again for everything that you do to follow my mom’s wishes.  It made such a difference to me, my Dad and my Mom’s family.  You all did such a nice memorial – only in Hawai`i!” wrote one.


Said another, “Just a short note to compliment the JABSOM students for doing such a wonderful job in presenting a most memorable Memorial Service and Scattering of Ashes.  Everything was done so well.  Our sincerest thank you and deepest appreciation for all you do for the donors.”

Canoes return to shore after MD students scatter cremains

In death, the Hawai`i residents who donated their bodies to the University of Hawai`i became mentors to medical students who could not have learned anatomy without their extraordinarily unselfish gift. The medical students call them their “silent teachers”, noting that there are many computer-generated ways to learn anatomy today, but none as effective as touch.  Through the gift of human bodies, the students embrace the science of anatomy with a profound respect for their common humanity.

The annual Willed Body Ceremony is the way JABSOM students say “mahalo”.  But it is also a moving, lovely way for the survivors of the program participants to say “aloha”.

Music by bagpipe players Tina Yap and Dan Quinn helped salute our donors

“On behalf of the Willed Body Program and the Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology, I want to thank everyone who was involved organizing and implementing the Memorial Service in the Medical Education Building Auditorium,” said Dr. Scott Lozanoff, Department Chair.  ”We had a record number of 337 attendees honoring their loved ones who selflessly gave their bodies so that our medical students may learn.  I particularly want to recognize the large number of  MS-1′s (first-year medical students) who participated.  Their kokua was very critical to the success of the program. ”

Although everyone’s contribution was important, Dr. Lozanoff wanted to specifically thank student speakers Ashely Saito, Huy Do, Anna Flaherty, Adam Rashap and Ryder Onopa.  ”Their touching words were greatly appreciated by the audience,” Lozanoff said.

Loved ones wave goodbye from shore at Magic Island

Many of the donors requested that their ashes be released into the ocean.  Their survivors gathered off Magic Island, to watch those wishes be fulfilled by our medical students, who paddled out in donated outrigger canoes for the final part of the ceremony.  From ashore, the families also waved their goodbyes and scattered blossoms into the ocean as well.

This year, for the first time, the Willed Body Program was able to stream the memorial service so that donor family members from the mainland who could not attend were able to still view the service.  Lozanoff thanked Michael von Platen from JABSOM IT for  directing this effort, as well as  Carol Uyemura from Kapi`olani Community College’s Kulia Grill for their support.  UHMedNow wants to thank Mari Kuroyama and Steven Labrash for their tireless support helping us to share news of the program and ceremony with the public.

The ceremony included bagpipe music by Tina Yap and Dan Quinn.  Photographers who contributed to the Willed Body Photo Album from the event included Emmauel De Jesus, Peter Deptula, Sarah Morihara, and Rajinder Nirwan. The photos may be viewed at

Our students who participated in the memorial ceremony pose after its conclusion

The Willed Body Program allows Hawai`i residents to make a significant difference when they die by donating their bodies to advance the teaching of Medicine or surgery at the University of Hawai`i John A. Burns School of Medicine. The program director is Steven Labrash, 692-1441.