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Posted on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

Police: Missing U-M medical school employee found dead from fall

By John Counts


Heping Zhao

Courtesy of U-M Police

The body of Heping Zhao, the 63-year-old University of Michigan medical school employee reported missing Wednesday, was found by a university staff member at 9 a.m. Thursday, police said.

Zhao was found on the ground in a secluded area between a parking structure and a building in the complex where he worked, at 1170 West Medical Center Drive, said U-M police spokeswoman Diane Brown

The body was found "in a little bit of space between the side of the parking structure and the side of the building" underneath an elevated walkway that connects the structure with the building, Brown said. The walkway is not enclosed.

“It is likely that his cause of death was from a fall,” Brown said, adding that police are still investigating where exactly Zhao fell from and also what caused the fall. Police said foul play is not suspected.

Zhao's wife, who reported her husband's disappearance Wednesday, has been notified, Brown said. An autopsy will be performed.

The University of Michigan Health System released a statement Thursday afternoon soon after the discovery of Zhao's body.

"The U-M Medical School community is saddened by the death of Heping Zhao, who had been a valuable staff member in our Department of Medical Education for more than a decade, and played a key role in the education of thousands of health professionals," Kara Gavin, a spokeswoman for UMHS, wrote in the statement. "We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, who has been a volunteer in Medical Education, and to his family, friends and colleagues in the Division of Anatomical Sciences."

The statement goes on to say that Zhao's worked at educating and training medical students. He was an anatomist and was central to the preparation of anatomical specimens for U-M's Plastination Lab. They will continue to be used to teach anatomical concepts at U-M and other institutions, according to the statement.

"In (his) role, and in our anatomy courses for first-year medical students, he worked closely with many future physicians as they learned the intricacies of the human body," Gavin stated. "He created a legacy of learning, and will be greatly missed."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

This story has been updated with comments from UMHS.

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John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

The Intricacies of Human Body : While I fully share the feelings expressed by Ms. Kara Gavin, the spokeswoman for UMHS, I would like to ask her to pay attention to the problem of Medical Education that at a fundamental level ignores the intricacies of the human body. This untimely death represents the failure of Medical Science to teach the concepts to the physicians it creates. This person had full access to UMHS and yet it could not prevent this unnatural loss of life. Human Anatomy describes the full details of the human physical form and the intricacy of this body involves the other four dimensions of this physical form; the mental form, the social form, the moral form, and the spiritual form. Physicians have to learn about the five dimensions of man's well-being; the physical, the mental, the social, the moral, and the spiritual well-being if they wish to defend human life from premature loss.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

He'd been an icon at the School for years. Very sad.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

Human Form and Human Identity: It is very unfortunate if this teacher of Human Anatomy had jumped from that building on his own. Having learned Human Anatomy, I often contemplate about the nature of human form and its identity. The cells, the tissues, the organs, and the organ systems that comprise the human body can establish the existence of a human being only if there is integration of structure and its functions. This integration is the evidence for human soul/spirit. Recognition of soul/spirit is required to find peace, harmony, and tranquility in the human living condition. To show respect to this departed teacher, we have to pay respect to his soul and describe its connection to the human body in which it existed.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 1:32 a.m.

I was very sad to hear of the untimely death of Dr. Zhao. For some time in the early 2000's I worked fairly closely with Dr. Zhao, and always found him to be an extremely helpful and very friendly colleague. His death came as a shock to me, and I now regret not having taken the time to go over and converse with him again. My condolences to his family.


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Very sad. I knew him. He was a nice man... RIP, Mr. Heping Zhao.


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

A very sad ending to this story. Prayers to the family of Mr Heping Zhao. Prayers also to the employee who discovered the body.

Sam S Smith

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

Special thoughts and prayers for Mr. Zhao, his family and friends!


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

RIP Heping


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Condolences to those who knew him. Sounds like a good guy.

Lisa Jo

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

That is so sad. Very sorry to hear about this. My deepest sympathy to those who knew him.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

=( thoughts, prayers and hugs....

Paprika Z

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

How awful. My thoughts are with Mr. Zhao's family.

Marc Stephens

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

Very sad. I knew this man. He was friend and always had a smile when we passed in the halls.

Marc Stephens

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.



Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

So very sad....RIP Heping Zhao.