Woman Who Left Her Body to Science to Teach Doctors Compassion Is Rebuilt as 3D High-Res Digital Cadaver

A short National Geographic documentary tells the story of a remarkable woman named Susan Potter. Potter wanted very much to be a part of teaching the art of compassion to doctors, but being elderly with fragile health didn’t give her many options. Potter sought out Dr. Vic Spitzer, a cell and developmental biologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Campus in Aurora in order to donate her body to a project he was working on. At first, Dr. Spitzer turned Potter down with concerns about her health, but Potter proved to be rather insistent and he acquiesced.

For the next 15 years, Potter took an active interest in Spitzer’s project until her death in 2015. Over the last few years, Spitzer and his team have compiled images of Potter’s body into a high-resolution 3D digital cadaver and is accessible to students and doctors in the program. Susan Potter may have died in 2015, but her spirit and her hopes of compassion for new doctors will live on forever.

Susan Potter knew in exquisite and grisly detail what was going to happen to her body after death. It seems that for the last 15 years of her life, she lived for Vic Spitzer, the scientist committed to fulfilling her dream of helping medical students become compassionate doctors. For the past 16 years, National Geographic has followed Potter’s life and death and her 3D resurrection to the highest resolution.