And on Thursday, first-year medical students at the UCF College of Medicine said a grateful good-bye to the 11 donors who had willed their bodies to science and education.

In a send-off ceremony that is a medical school tradition at the end of Anatomy Lab, the 60 M-1 students lit candles, presented white roses and spoke about the “precious souls” who had not only taught them science, but also important lessons about life, death and giving back.

At first, “we were frightened to meet you,” said M-1 Omar Shakeel as he described the four-month Anatomy Lab. “Then you began to teach us. You had the answers to our questions. We are grateful for the lessons we will have for the rest of our lives and will be used to save others one day.”

In opening the ceremony, Class of 2014 President Robert Palmer asked classmates to “remember the sacrifice these patients made for us.” M-1 Social Chair Christina Hsu read a tribute written by a Connecticut medical school professor whose mother donated her body to science. The professor had mixed feelings about the donation but realized that her mother’s decision illustrated her love of education and science and her belief that a single person can make a difference. “Study me hard,” the writer said her mother would tell young medical students.

Faculty members compared the send-off ceremony to how they had left Anatomy Lab years ago. There was no chance to reflect, no closure, no chance to express gratitude for the patient’s dedicated gift to helping others. Dr. Jim Sanders, who spoke for Anatomy Professor Andrew Payer, told of a young man dying of a brain tumor who donated his body to Dr. Payer’s medical school lab in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Payer talks frequently about the terminally ill young man and the message he wanted Dr. Payer to give to his medical students: “Tell them I’m a good guy and I hope they learn a lot from me.”

Dr. Richard Peppler, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs, asked the medical students to remember that the donors were “fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles. Celebrate what they have contributed to your education.”

As a permanent tribute to the donors, the Class of 2014 will place a brick in the future piazza at the College of Medicine. The brick will be inscribed with these words:  “Beyond flesh, you are woven into the fabric of our future. Beyond words, your spirit is threaded through our lives.”