TCU Medical Students Help in Preparing to Say Farewell to Their Silent Mentors


Text: Chia-Yi Lee
Photo: Jung-Hui Hsu
Translation: J.B. Willis, Steve J. Lin

TCU’s medical juniors completed their class of Gross Anatomy in January 2019. The students are grateful to their Silent Mentors who donated themselves altruistically for the students to explore deep structures of the human body. After completing dissections, at the end of the semester, they placed everything back stitch-by-stitch, and helped their Silent Mentors put clothes on. On March 7, one day before saying farewell, TCU vice president Guo-Fang Tseng and faculty members of the Department of Anatomy accompanied students to clean the surroundings of the crematorium. On March 8, TCU’s faculty members and students placed the Silent Mentors into caskets, and then walked with them through the final stretch. After sending the Silent Mentors to the crematorium and waiting for their cremains to return, the families attended a gathering, where faculty members and students expressed their gratitude in a very touching fashion. The daily program ended with placement of the Silent Mentors’ cremains in the Hall of Great Giving.

Vice president Tseng wanted to let students learn firsthand, through taking part in these activities, to put themselves into the shoes of Silent Mentors’ families. TCU wishes to prepare each medical student to become a humane physician who always attends the needs of patients and their families.

In Chinese tradition, letting others dissect the body of our dear ones is not appropriate at all. In the early days of Taiwan, cadavers were scarce, so medical students were unable to acquire needed skills. However, TCU pioneered this Silent Mentor Program, and it has been carried out in a caring way. Thus, Silent Mentors’ families appreciate TCU’s endeavors and they are willing to support body donations. Up to this point, more than 39,000 people have signed their consent, and 889 of them have completed their donation.

Twelve Silent Mentors took part in Gross Anatomy class for the academic year 2018-2019. Unlike other faculty members, these Silent Mentors were unable to teach using words, yet they taught students by using their bodies. One Silent Mentor said: “Feel free to do anything on my body, I wish you to learn as much as you can, and one day you will be a humane doctor.”

While cleaning the crematorium surroundings on March 7, medical students mopped the floor, wiped the glass and even cleaned the toilet. Dong-Hui Wu, a student of Chinese Medicine, felt grateful for what the Silent Mentors have given them, so he volunteered to clean the toilet and helped provide a clean space for the Silent Mentors’ families. After cleaning the crematorium, faculty members and students returned to the school, prepared dumplings for the Silent Mentors’ families and ate with them.

It was drizzling on the morning of March 8, where Masters from Jing Si Abode, TCU’s faculty members and students said their farewells to the Silent Mentors. A medical junior named Zhong-Ming Zhang said: “Today is the last day for me to be with my Silent Mentor, but the Silent Mentor’s spirit will reside in my heart forever.” Zhong-Ming’s father passed away, because of cancer, in his son’s sophomore year. Zhong-Ming has a vivid memory of the sufferings his father went through. He felt happy for his Silent Mentor, who is now free of any suffering, and he wishes his Silent Mentor can meet his father in Heaven, where they can become good friends.

On this day, students presented bouquets to every family member, and also shared how they had interacted with their Silent Mentors, while the classes were in session. Students would usually express their gratitude at the beginning of each class, and while doing so, some would play songs their Silent Mentor loved. Others would ask their Silent Mentor to help them do well on exams. Ding-Jun Dai’s Silent Mentor enjoyed traveling, so she always shared her travel plan, before taking a trip, with her Silent Mentor.

The students tried not to do anything to harm their Silent Mentors. Yu-Siou Chen called the wife of her Silent Mentor, Zhao-Xun Yang, and apologized to her for the things she didn’t do right. Mrs. Yang replied: “My husband is a very nice person, and he sees all of you as his children. I am sure that he will forgive you for any mistakes you have made.” The families’ understanding gave students a great deal of support. Many students and family members communicated with each other regularly, using the LINE application, and students sometimes received gifts from family members.

Yu-Zhong Jian, a medical student, mentioned that many of his high school classmates are studying medicine in other universities, and he contacts them regularly. He senses that our university is quite different from others, for in addition to acquiring professional skills and knowledge, our students also learn firsthand about humanistic culture.

In the morning session, students presented songs, with guitar and sign language, to express their gratitude. “My Wishes” was one of the songs presented, and the lyrics and melody were the work of Tian-Zong Jian, a Chinese Medicine student. At the end of each class, Tian-Zong wondered what his Silent Mentor would say to him. In addition, he always had something to tell his Silent Mentor. A month earlier, he put all these into his song, and invited his peers to sing with him.

Mei-Lan Lin is the daughter of a Silent Mentor. Her mother never spread any gossip and she was well-liked by everyone. Volunteering at a recycling station was her love. She didn’t have much school education, thus she wanted to leave a legacy of love to medical education and be our Silent Mentor. Mei-Lan thanked the students for fulfilling her mother’s last wish.

TCU president Pen-Jung Wang presented a plaque to each Silent Mentor’s family. The cremains of Silent Mentors are placed forever in TCU’s Hall of Great Giving. These Silent Mentors have guided students with their lives and inspired them with their kindness, compassion and good deeds. Students have received so much from their Silent Mentors, and they feel grateful. The students’ gratitude will become beautiful seeds, which will help cultivate their own dispositions to attend the needs of others, whatever those needs are.