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Funeral home seeks anatomical donations

By Errol Castens

Special to The EAGLE

Anatomy classes at every medical school in the country need body donors for their students to study, but there’s often a challenge in getting enough of them.

One local business hopes to help change that.

“As a physician, I understand the importance of people’s donating their bodies to science,” said Dr. Tom Fowlkes, who practices medicine in Oxford and is CFO of Coleman Funeral Home.

“One of the rites of passage into becoming a doctor is passing Gross Anatomy,” he said, noting the “gross” in the course title parallels “large,” as in what is visible without magnification. “Basically you spend the entire year learning every single square inch of the human body.”

Dr. Alan Sinning, who teaches anatomy at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, said those who donate their bodies “are people who understand the need of what we’re going to do. They see it as a way to be of value even after their deaths. We like to say that all the donors are teachers.”

Students develop bond

It goes even further. Even though students don’t know the name, hometown or other identifying characteristics of the person they study, they develop a bond.

“I actually called them my patient,” medical student Leah Burch said in an article published by UMC. “They were our first patient.”

Often it’s hard for medical schools to secure all the bodies they need for anatomy classes. That’s where Fowlkes and Coleman Funeral Home come in.

“In addition to being a physician in Oxford, I’m a funeral home owner. And I believe we’re in the business of helping families deal with death in a comforting and meaningful way,” he said.

To encourage anatomical donations, Coleman Funeral Home locations in Oxford and Olive Branch will, without charge, serve the family of any resident of Lafayette County or DeSoto County whose body is given to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for study.

“We’ll help to plan and host a memorial service in our facilities, provide a guest registry and printed memorial programs, place an obituary with newspapers (at cost), and secure death certificates (at cost),” Fowlkes said. Also included are aftercare services from online grief support groups to seminars and other gatherings geared for the recently bereaved.

Coleman Funeral Home opened a new facility in 2015 at 601 Commerce Parkway, just off Highway 7 South in Oxford. Currently operating in Olive Branch at 9270 Goodman Road, the company is building a new facility on Goodman Road across from the YMCA, with completion expected in late 2016 or early 2017.