Saturday, October 24, 2009

"It's not just a body..."

Robert Bouchie (far left) leads a moment of silence in the anatomy lab before a body is cremated and returned to the donor's loved ones. The pine box also contains notes of thanks from the students.
- photo by Kalman Zabarsky for Bostonia

Our family is the first on either my wife's or my side where every member has at least a bachelor's degree, so we get a fair number of the kinds of alumni magazines at our home that we never saw as kids - including from UConn ("Go, Huskies!"), Harvard ("Don't be so smug."), UMass/Boston ("The campus that political corruption built."), and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design ("Home of the Fightin' Picasso's - Go Pablos!").

My wife went to grad school at Boston University ("We don't have a slogan."), and while idly thumbing through the Fall, 2009 issue of Bostonia I came across Caleb Daniloff's wonderful article, "Parting Gifts." The subhead says, "Robert Bouchie adds one final lesson to the training in the med school's anatomy lab: how to honor the dead."

Bouchie is a BU alum and former football defensive lineman. He worked as a pharmaceutical salesman before earning a degree in mortuary science. He has directed the morgue at the Children's Hospital Boston, and now manages the anatomy lab at BU's School of Medicine and coordinates the school's anatomical gift program.

The online version of the article includes a video featuring Bouchie and the work in his lab, where he tells the students that each person on the dissecting table is, "your first patient, your first instructor."
There are two philosophies in anatomical donations...sometimes the people that have the position that I have, they don't want to sensitize the students, they don't want them to buy into that this was a person that was a friend, father, neighbor, grandparent. They want the students to just view it as a a tool.
I'm from the other side of the street. I expect them to care as much as I do. It's not just a body in front of them. It's a real person, and they should never lose sight of that fact."