Physicians and Students Attend Surgical Simulations, and Help Silent Mentors to Fulfill Their Altruistic Act of Donating Their Bodies to Medical Education

September 15-19, 2022, Tzu Chi University sponsored a surgical simulation program based on the donated bodies of Silent Mentors. Twenty Tzu Chi University medical students, two Poznan University (Poland) medical graduates, nine Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) medical students, forty-one Tzu Chi General Hospital physicians, and fifty emergency medical technicians (EMTs) of the Hualien County Fire Department attended the program.

During this program, an earthquake struck eastern Taiwan in the early afternoon of September 18. It demolished houses, damaged bridges, and trapped an unknown number of people under collapsed buildings in Yuli Township, close to 1.5 hours of driving distance south of the University. Hualien County EMTs attending the class were called upon to urgently return to their posts or rush to the epicenter to give immediate help those affected. 

In the gratitude ceremony held on the last day of the program, Professor Tsung-Ying Chen, dean of the Tzu Chi University College of Medicine, expressed his gratitude to the EMTs for their prompt action to join the disaster relief team and for taking care of those in need. On behalf of all program attendees, Professor Chen also voiced his appreciation to all the Silent Mentors for their donations to make this unique, professional, and humanistic intertwined program.

A total of 8 Silent Mentors fulfilled their wills in this program. On the early morning of the last day of the program, Dharma Masters from Jing Si Abode led the families of the Silent Mentors, faculty members, staff, and students, all program attendees, and Tzu Chi volunteers to escort the Silent Mentors in a sendoff ceremony at the University’s Main Campus for cremation.

Mr. I-Chung Chan was one of the Silent Mentors and was a Tzu Chi recycling volunteer for many years. Mr. Chan signed the consent form in 1997 to be a Silent Mentor. In his late years, he often brought this to his children’s attention, so that they would help him to fulfill his wish. His son, Qian-Huang Chan, said his father loved biking, even in his late years. But his son cautioned him safety first, so that he could live up to his wish to be a Silent Mentor. In February 2022, at age 81, he decided to quit biking. Mr. Chan would do anything to ensure he could have the privilege to offer his body at the end of his life to healthcare professionals and students. He wished to assist them in enhancing medical knowledge, clinical skills, and compassion to be altruistic professionals. 

Mr. Ching-Sung Ho was another Silent Mentor and was an enthusiastic school teacher with extraordinary compassion for his students. His son, Chang-Yun Ho, was proud of his father. After learning about the Silent Mentor Program from his son-in-law, Dr. Guan-Lin Liu, an orthopedic surgeon in Hualien Tzu Chi General Hospital, Mr. Chan signed up to be a Silent Mentor for the program. The family was proud of the father’s decision. Chang-Yun believes that his father’s selfless dedication will benefit many, and his father’s love will stay in everybody’s hearts. After participating in program-related humanistic ceremonies, Chang-Yun was amazed that faculty members, staff, students, and Tzu Chi volunteers treated his father with profound gratitude and respect. He said: “This program deeply moved every family member.” 

Nine medical students from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore attended this program. Due to the prevalence of COVID over the last two years, students of this University have not been able to come to Taiwan to join the program. They have had choices to learn surgical skills elsewhere, such as in the UK, Canada, etc., but they chose Tzu Chi University. Before making the decision, they heard from their seniors about Tzu Chi University’s Silent Mentor Program and were shockingly amazed. This program taught them life-saving skills, such as intubation and surgical drainage related to emergency airway reconstruction, and invasive emergency surgery. 

At the gratitude ceremony, a student of Nanyang Technological University shared that she’d had no opportunity to learn general anatomy and surgical simulation directly from human bodies in Singapore. On this trip to Taiwan, she acquired many surgical skills and completed placement of a central venous catheter. She gained most from the selfless giving and Great Love offered by her Silent Mentor and family.  

She vows to apply what she has learned to take good care of her patients in their physical and mental well-being and support their families heartily. 

Yu-Xiang Huang, a Tzu Chi University medical student, shared that he acquired surgical skills from his Mentor, and his Mentor allowed him ample opportunities to learn from mistakes. Because of the Silent Mentor’s dedication, he and his peers could gain surgical skills confidently, and they vowed to be humane physicians in the future. 

Dean of Tzu Chi University’s College of Medicine, Tsung-Ying Chen, presented a token of gratitude to each of the families of the eight Silent Mentors. Near the end of the gratitude ceremony, all participating medical students sang the song “The Incarnation of the Bodhisattva” to thank the Silent Mentors and their families.

In the end, Dharma Master De Yu of the Jing Si Abode expressed her sincerest gratitude to all the Silent Mentors for dedicating themselves to medical education. The great love and spirit they passed on will stay in everyone’s hearts forever. We thank the fifty Hualien County EMTs participating in this Silent Mentor Program, who were urgently called upon to do earthquake rescue work, still busy at the scene at this very moment, and therefore cannot join this gratitude ceremony. This earthquake also reminds us that things come and go during the course of our lives and are often beyond our control. What we need to do is to cherish every moment and attend to all people’s needs. We can all follow the Silent Mentors’ selfless attitudes to benefit others.