An anatomical gift is the donation of an individual's body after death. Future health professionals study donations under the watchful supervision of highly trained anatomists. They learn the fundamentals of human biology while developing an appreciation for the form, function and beauty of the human body. Medical science professionals deepen their skill and understanding by intense study of the parts of the body. This training and study take place in the controlled environment of academic laboratories under the watchful supervision of PhDs of anatomy, who observe clear and long-standing ethical and scientific conventions.
Eight medical schools within the State of Illinois make up the Anatomical Gift Association. Under their supervision, the AGA procures, prepares and preserves donations for medical and scientific study. The AGA also makes its facility available for health professionals as well as to students.
What does the AGA do?
Formerly known as the Demonstrator’s Society, the AGA was founded in 1918. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that manages the willed body donor program for the medical research and educational institutions of Illinois. The AGA plays an essential role in the training of thousands of medical students and allied health professionals annually. It receives, prepares, preserves and distributes human remains for the purpose of medical, biological, and anatomical education and research at licensed and accredited institutions of higher learning throughout Illinois and beyond. The association also makes its resources and facility available for anatomical, medical and mortuary science training.
The association’s member institutions include most of the major academic medical schools in the state including: Loyola University of Chicago, Midwestern University, National University of Health Sciences, Northwestern University, Rush Medical College, Southern Illinois University, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. The AGA Board of Directors continuously assesses developments in national and world science and healthcare while monitoring the activities and practices of the organization. When necessary, the Board directs staff to adopt innovations to improve its scientific practices and other operating procedures.
The Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, its medical schools, and scientific professionals are committed to the advancement of medical training, understanding, and expertise, while adhering to the highest measures of legal and ethical observance. The association works with the general public to explain the importance of whole-body donation. From initial documentation to the ultimate return of the donor’s ashes to the family, its priority is to ensure the privacy of the donor and the donor’s family, while achieving the highest standard of responsiveness, clarity, and security. Most of all, utmost care, reverently performed, is taken with all bodies, so that both the donor’s and family’s wishes are carried out.
AGA supports the training of thousands of medical students and allied health professionals annually. With the materials supplied by the AGA medical students develop knowledge and understanding of human anatomy through dissection. This training represents a crucial phase of medical education, one that cannot be replaced by computer simulation or virtual reality.
In recent years, the AGA has participated in trauma and emergency response training for fire fighters and police officers, as well as members of the US military and the National Guard, many of whom come from outside of Illinois. These first responders have benefited from an enhanced understanding of anatomy as a result of training supported by the AGA.
The AGA also supports research programs in Alzheimer’s disease, neurology, orthopedics, cardiology and plastic surgery.
The association contributes to training initiatives in orthopedic surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, gynecology and gastroenterology, among others.