UA Medical Students to Honor Willed Body Donors

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

This week, medical students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson will plant a tree in memory of those who have passed away and generously donated their bodies to science.

The annual event, known as the Tree Blessing Ceremony, will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, in the Dr. Norman Koelling Willed Body Memorial Garden, just south of the main entrance of Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. The news media is invited to attend.

Medical students learn the basics of human anatomy through the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Willed Body Program, which allows individuals to donate their bodies after passing so that students may gain valuable hands-on medical training. 

“The blessing ceremony helps students recognize that willed bodies are a gift,” said Carlos Gonzales, MD, assistant dean of curricular affairs and an associate professor of family and community medicine, who will lead the ceremony. “We honor the sacrifice of these donors and acknowledge that their gift to the UA is not something to be taken for granted.”

In their first year of medical school, students are paired with the remains of a donor for lessons in clinical human anatomy. The lab provides students the unique opportunity to learn about the structures of the human body and how they function through touch and discovery. The knowledge and skills acquired through these examinations are an essential part of medical education.

The annual Tree Blessing Ceremony includes a traditional American Indian blessing common among many of the tribes in Arizona.

The Willed Body Program was established in 1967 to further the education of future and current health professionals through the gift of body donation. After one to two years of study, all donors are cremated and the cremated remains are scattered in a professional and dignified manner.

About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university’s partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit

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