Dear SMHS Community:
As you may be aware, the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology has for many years operated a willed body donor program. Under this program, individuals generously donated their bodies to be used for the advancement of science and medical education. These selfless gifts have been essential to the training of generations of physicians and health professionals.
Last fall, we learned that the management of the willed body donor program was not consistent with the standards that donors and their families deserve and expect nor what I would expect as dean. As a result, we ended acceptance of donor bodies and began an internal review, including consultation with appropriate experts.
It is with deep regret that I report that, despite exhaustive efforts, we have been unable to make a positive identification of certain donor bodies and as a result are unable to return ashes to some families who have requested them. We have been contacting the families of the donors who we believe may be affected by the program irregularities. These families are our priority and we are working with them to resolve any concerns.
The individual who had responsibility for managing the willed body donor program is no longer employed by the university, and the responsibility for oversight and management has been moved to the dean's office. Our anatomy courses continue without disruption through the generous donations previously received and through other sources.
As the dean and as a former medical student whose education benefitted greatly from the altruism of a body donor, I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to all of the affected families and the entire SMHS community.
Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D.
Vice President for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine and Health Sciences
The George Washington University