Maria Koenig Guyette, M.D. ’05 By Ajay Major, ’16
When Maria Koenig Guyette, M.D. ’05 heard that her grandmother had decided to donate her body to the Anatomical Gift Program, she knew her entrance into the profession of medicine inspired the gift.
“My Nana made that decision on her own, five years before she died,” Guyette said of her grandmother Alma Marie Koenig. “But she made that decision in part because of my experiences. I am the only one in my family who became a doctor, and she had a personal connection to that.” Her grandmother’s choice was received with mixed emotions by her family. Maria Koenig Guyette, M.D. ’05 “It really unsettled some of her children and my extended family. I think it was difficult for them to understand that decision,” Guyette said. “But in the end, it was her decision, and they weren’t going to revoke it.” Despite the many questions, Guyette said her family found peace at the Annual Interment and Memorial Services last August, which she attended along with her grandmother’s son and three daughters. “Everyone was so impressed at the memorial service,” Guyette said. “They were heartened that nana’s gift was appreciated, and they could feel that from the students that they really cared about the gifts. “Especially in the world of medicine today, you don’t get much time to see that appreciation from your physician,” Guyette added. “I think that day was a different side that people don’t get to see.”
Having been on the receiving end of her grandmother’s gift, Guyette was moved in her own way during the memorial service, reminiscing on her experiences with her own donor during her time at Albany Medical College. “I still carry the name of my donor,” Guyette said. “It’s someone that you know. You talked to them. You learned a lot from them.” At the memorial service, Guyette was reminded of her grandmother’s generosity as one of the student speakers, Tri Trang, ’16 said, “Today on this beautiful summer day, my classmates and I, thank you all tremendously for your ability to help us.” “I was thinking of her when she was alive and how much she gave,” Guyette said. “This was just a continuation of her being such a generous person.” In her obituary, which she started writing herself in the months before she died, Alma describes generosity as her life’s mission, writing about foster children she adopted and her decision to teach medical students even in death. “She never met a stranger, and she loved and was loved by all who know her.” In honor of her grandmother, Guyette purchased a paver installed in Albany Medical Center’s new Healing Garden last October. Since graduating in 2005, Guyette completed her residency in emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and asserts that her experience at Albany Med prepared her for a successful career as an emergency physician. “I had a great experience at Albany Med,” Guyette said. “It’s four years of your life that are so incredibly intense, and you’re growing up a lot. And that left a huge imprint on me.”