Thanking the 'silent teachers' who donated their bodies to medicine

The Service of Gratitude Ceremony honors patients in the UCLA Donated Body Program

The Service of Gratitude, which commemorates patients who have donated their bodies for the advancement of medical science and research, is back after a two-year hiatus.

This year’s ceremony, on Friday, May 20, honored the families of 600 patients, offering them the chance “to come together with other people who have done the same thing,” says Travis Siems, assistant director of the UCLA Donated Body Program.

“It brought to light the importance of the decision that their loved ones made, and the value that came from it.”

The student-led ceremony, held in Geffen Hall, included remarks from Dr. Elena Stark, professor of pathology and vice chair for medical and dental education and Dr. Jason Napolitano, associate dean for curricular affairs.

There were also readings and stories from medical students, music from the class of 2025, and closing remarks from Chaplain Blake Arnall, assistant director of spiritual care.

“I think the ceremony is important because it’s a way of coming together and acknowledging a loss,” says Siems. “It’s a way for the community to come together and support one another.”

He says in some cultures, such as in Thailand, people who donate their bodies to science are considered “silent teachers.”

“This is a gift that’s something you could never ask for, and gives back in ways many cannot understand.”

Learn more about the UCLA Donated Body Program and the Service of Gratitude Ceremony.