Effects of a "silent mentor" initiation ceremony and dissection on medical students' humanity and learning

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Many medical schools in Taiwan have adopted a dignified "silent mentor" initiation ceremony to strengthen student's medical humanity and increase their learning attitudes. This ceremony consists of introductions of the body donor's conduct and deeds, wreath-laying, and a tea party. However, few empirical studies have examined the influences of the ceremony and dissection on medical humanity. This study explored if the initiation ceremony and the course can help students care more about others, develop more positive attitudes toward death, improve learning effectiveness in the course, and decrease negative emotions the first time they see a cadaver. Methods: The Attitudes Towards Death and Love and Care subscales of the life attitude inventory, Learning Effectiveness of Gross Anatomy Laboratory Scale (LEGALS), and Emotional Reactions Towards Cadavers Scale were adopted to examine differences before (T1) and after (T2) medical students attended an initiation ceremony at a university in northern Taiwan. Whether these effects lasted to the end of the semester (T3) was also tested. Results: After the ceremony, students' attitudes towards death increased, negative emotions towards cadavers decreased, but love and care and the LEGALS did not significantly change. Data from T3 showed a similar pattern, but high-level emotions (e.g., being respected, cherished, and grateful) and the LEGALS were significantly higher than those at T1. Discussion: The initiation ceremony, which showed a body donor's deeds and attitudes toward life and death when they were alive, could help medical students gain more mature attitudes towards death and decreased negative emotions. Learning between T2 and T3 might have caused significant changes in high-level emotions and the LEGALS at T3. Arranging reflective writing with guided discussion by a teacher before and after the ceremony is highly recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number483
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 16 2017


  • "silent mentor" initiation ceremony
  • Attitude towards death
  • Gross anatomy
  • Medical compassion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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