Medical students create mural for Anatomical Gift ceremony

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine anatomy gift

First-year medical students at Upstate paint panels of what will become a mural to be unveiled at the annual Anatomical Gift ceremony Saturday. Mani Yahyavi-Tajabadi, an accomplished artist, came up with the idea. Here he works with classmates Liz Perkins and John Pizzuti, two of many members of the Class of 2016 who have worked on the project.

Science and art have come together in the form of a student-created mural to be unveiled this weekend at Upstate’s annual Anatomical Gift memorial service.

The mural is the brainchild of first-year medical student Mani Yahyavi-Tajabadi, an accomplished artist who has been instructing his classmates during the process.

Mani came up with the idea for the collaborative piece during Gross Anatomy class last fall, and it was enthusiastically endorsed by instructor Susan Stearns, PhD, associate professor of Cell & Developmental Biology.

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

Medical student Liz Perkins touches up a panel.

About 20 students – most with little or no art background — have worked on the piece, based on a sketch by Mani. In Mani’s Geneva Tower apartment — a makeshift studio, for now — students have been working individually or in small groups on a series of square panels depicting different aspects of human anatomy.

The finished panels will be assembled into an 8×10-foot mural for the annual memorial service that pays tribute to those who have donated their bodies to Upstate. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. Saturday in Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.

The overall work will articulate the complexities of human anatomy and attempt to capture the mystical interconnections of the human spirit, Mani said.

“The beauty of this structure is in enhancing the sense of connection we have developed with each other as a class and the bodies we spent months studying and are now expressing artistically,” he said.

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

Medical student John Pizzuti at work.

Upstate students often speak reverently of the anatomical gift program, and that was evident during a recent painting session in Mani’s apartment.

Student Liz Perkins said the mural is a way to show appreciation to the families of those who have donated their bodies for the benefit of our students — and their future patients. Time is precious to medical students, Liz said, and it’s fitting to devote time to this tribute.

“We have a special class, and this is an example of one exceptional student who had an idea for how we as a class can show our appreciation to the families,” said John Pizzuti.

The students gladly defer to Mani for the majority of the painting, and to touch up any sections that need a little artistic TLC. “Mani’s our art director,” Liz said. “Eighty percent of the work is Mani’s,” John said.

Mani’s happy to do it, and has made another discovery throughout the process. “I really enjoy teaching,” he said. “I never knew that before. It’s a new realm for me.”

In addition to the visual images depicted in acrylic on the front, the mural will also have individual touches on the back. Student-artists will add further tributes to the anatomical gift donors and their families, in the form of text or drawings.

They hope to have the finished mural displayed on the Upstate campus.

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

Mani Yahyavi-Tajabadi and Liz Perkins work on panels of the mural that is a tribute to the families of donors to Upstate's anatomical gift program.


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