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‘Roll Call of Heroes’ Honors Body Donors at UMMC

By Gary Pettus

UMMC communications

Loved ones listen to tributes paid to the donors by students who honored “their first patients” at Wednesday’s Ceremony of Thanksgiving in the UMMC Cemetery. Photos by Joe Ellis/ UMMC Communications

Susan Enns will never forget what her mother said the day she got the letter that would earn her the title of “hero.” 

“She was so excited,” Enns recalled. “She said, ‘I donated my body.’”

Her mom, Pearlie Crawford of Meridian, was honored for that most personal gift to science, along with more than 100 others like her during A Ceremony of Thanksgiving in Memory of Anatomical Donors recently at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Attending the Ceremony of Thanksgiving in honor of Pearlie Crawford of Meridian are from left, daughter Ginger Crawford of Meridian; Susan Enns of Bagdad, Florida; daughter-in-law Sheri Crawford of Meridian; and son Greg Crawford of Meridian.

Held in the UMMC Cemetery, the observance included, in the words of Dr. LouAnn Woodward, “the roll call of heroes” – a reading of the donors’ names.

“Whatever their occupation might have been … you can add to that anatomical donor, first patient, teacher,” said Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at UMMC.

Because many students do consider donors their first patients, many from UMMC’s health professions schools were also on hand to pay tribute to those who gave their bodies for education and research.

It was also an occasion to put names with those who otherwise remain anonymous while students learn from them the intricacies of anatomy.

“Pearlie Crawford” was near the top of the roll call. For her part, Ennes drove from her home in Bagdad, Florida, to reunite with her siblings from Meridian and hear that name called in the cemetery where many of the body donors are buried.

“She was an awesome lady,” Ennes said. “She ran a daycare in her home for the children of doctors and nurses. That’s how she made her living.”

One of Crawford’s sons had died at age 24 of leukemia; he had been cared for at the Medical Center, Enns said. “My mom had told us, “The University treated him so well, with such dignity; so, this is my gift for what they did for him.’

“That’s why she donated her body.”

William Clopton, who died in January of last year at age 81, donated his body to honor a family tradition, said his wife, Wilma E. Clopton of Jackson.

Wilma E. Clopton of Jackson, center, wife of body donor William Clopton, listens to the roll call with several of her friends; she is flanked by Dr. Corrine Anderson, left, and Flonzie Brownwright, both of Jackson.

“We both decided to do this,” she said.

Her husband was an Air Force pilot who had been trained by the Tuskegee Airmen, she said. “He was also the most loving husband you could possibly meet. He was selfless. And I think he would have been pleased at this very thoughtful ceremony.”

The names of Clopton, Crawford and the other donors were read by students from four different UMMC schools. Still other students described to the gathering the impact these benefactors had made on their lives. Among them was Madison Klim who defined medicine as the place where “concrete science and humanity merge.

“The very first lessons we learned in medical school are from your loved ones,” said Klim, a first-year medical student. “We are eternally grateful for their sacrifices and their service to others.”

Kaleigh Williamson, a first-year dental student, said of her donor: “I wondered what he did for a living … what were his hobbies, and who is missing him.

“These past few months, I have learned about God’s perfect creation.”

To find out more about the Body Donation Program at UMMC, go here.

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