The program director cited a shortage in international doctors flying in for surgical training, a decline that began during the coronavirus pandemic.

Beginning July 11, the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine is temporarily halting a program that allows people to donate their bodies after death for anatomical studies.

While Covid-19 caused a decline in international doctors, such as from Japan and South Korea, flying to Hawaii for surgical training, the number of bodies donated to the program remained steady. Fewer participants in surgical training courses has tremendously slowed the Willed Body Program system down, according to program director Steven Labrash.

“We have the same number of people who are becoming donors,” Labrash said. “The only thing that’s changed is the number of courses that we’re teaching.”

More than 3,000 people in the state have registered to be donors. However, the program has run out of space to store the corpses, which the school calls “silent teachers,” according to Labrash.

The program’s freezer can accommodate around 100 donors at a time. 

“We have more requests than we can make room for,” Labrash said. 

The medical school will still offer the courses already on the calendar and utilize some of the bodies while making space for new individuals to join the program. “My gut feeling is probably December or January before we open up again,” Labrash said.

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