Reunion 2007 opened on June 1 with the traditional reception and clambake—but in a departure from past years, the reception was held in Harkness Courtyard rather than in the Medical/Historical Library.

The reunion, said Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Ensign Professor of Medicine, marked his third anniversary as dean. He assured alumni about the status of the Yale system of medical education. “The Yale system is alive and well—so relax and enjoy the weekend.”

The following morning, after a reunion symposium on brain function, Alpern offered a more detailed view of the state of the school. Applications to the medical school have increased, he said. With more than 4,000 applicants each year for 100 slots, the admissions committee has been increased from 30 to 74 members. “The quality of the applicants is incredible,” he said. He also mentioned that for the second time in three years, 100 percent of students matched this year.

In addition, 102 new graduate students entered the medical school in 2006. This year a new collaborative project with China will begin, wherein eight Chinese graduate students will come to Yale, with their education funded by universities and the Chinese government. “It will be really good for China and for Yale,” Alpern said.

Three new research centers have been established at Yale: the PET Center; the stem cell center funded in part by the state of Connecticut; and the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation. Two important initiatives are also under way, Alpern continued. One is to ensure that the clinical practice is run as efficiently as possible: Navigant Consulting, a specialized independent consulting firm, has identified areas in which the practice can be improved. And Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) and the medical school are working on joint service line planning for cardiovascular care, organ transplant, neurosciences, oncology and pediatrics.

The medical school’s endowment has grown from $1 billion to $1.8 billion over the past three years. In addition, three major facilities are in the works: a cancer hospital is under construction; a new research building on Amistad Street is set to open in October; and still another research building is on the drawing board.

The Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM) elected a new slate of officers this year. Jocelyn S. Malkin, M.D. ’52, HS ’54, FW ’60, became president. Harold D. Bornstein Jr., M.D. ’53, HS ’56, was elected vice president. Robert W. Lyons, M.D. ’64, HS ’68, stayed on as secretary, a three-year position. Francis M. Lobo, M.D. ’92, completed his two-year term as president.

Howard A. Minners, M.D. ’57, and Peter N. Herbert, M.D. ’67, received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Minners was honored for his service to the medical school, the country and the world. He has worked as a flight surgeon for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, developed vaccines at the National Institutes of Health, was assistant surgeon general and served as a science advisor to the United States Agency for International Development.

Herbert, chief of staff at YNHH, was recognized for his achievements in elucidating the mechanisms of lipid metabolism and for his service to three hospitals in the New Haven area—YNHH, the Hospital of St. Raphael and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.

Honoring first African American alumnus

Today, more than 350 African Americans hold degrees from the Yale School of  Medicine, but 150 years ago there was only one: Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed.

When Creed received his degree in 1857, he was the first African American to be awarded any degree from Yale University and the first to obtain a medical degree from an Ivy League school. The School of Medicine celebrated this landmark event during the June reunion weekend as 50 Creed family members attended commemorative events, including a visit to Creed’s grave in the Grove Street Cemetery during which Curtis Patton, Ph.D., professor emeritus of epidemiology and public health, unveiled a new gravestone for Dr. Creed. The centerpiece of the weekend was a presentation on Creed’s life by Forrester A. Lee, M.D. ’79, assistant dean for multicultural affairs and professor of medicine (cardiology).

It took extensive genealogical detective work on the part of Darryl K. Daniels, M.D. ’91, and others to fill in the details of Creed’s life and to track down his descendants; no photograph of him has ever been found. Still, much has been learned about Creed and his many accomplishments.

A New Haven native, Creed was the grandson of Prince Duplex, a Revolutionary War soldier. His mother, Vashti Duplex, was New Haven’s first African American schoolteacher, and his father, John Creed, was a Yale College janitor and caterer.

Creed served as a surgeon during the Civil War and as medical officer of the Connecticut National Guard. He went on to practice medicine in successful mixed-race practices in New Haven and Brooklyn, N.Y., drawing the attention of the press for his surgical and forensic skills. Reportedly, Washington physicians sought his expertise when President James Garfield was assassinated in 1881. At that time there were no X-ray machines or other devices that could detect the precise location of bullets lodged deep within the body, and eminent surgeons outside Washington were consulted in an effort to locate the bullet and remove it to prevent infection and save Garfield’s life.

Creed’s memory at Yale endures through scholarships and awards. At the School of Public Health (EPH), the Creed/Patton/Steele Scholarship supports outstanding students from underrepresented minorities. Both the School of Medicine and EPH present an annual Creed Award to an underrepresented minority student for academic achievement and commitment to community service.

After Lee’s presentation, several Creed family members took turns at the podium in Rosenberg Auditorium in the Jane Ellen Hope Building. An emotional George Creed said, “You have immortalized one of our ancestors. I can think of no greater gift for man on earth.” Referring to Creed’s descendants, Georgette Creed added, “We’re all activists in some form or fashion. We’re still carrying the banner.” 

Remembrances of women at Yale

Alumni who returned for reunion weekend in early June surely expected misty-eyed reminiscences over lobster and Chablis with former classmates and professors, but some also had the chance to delve into the past in a more structured way with Naomi Rogers, Ph.D., associate professor of history of medicine and of women’s and gender studies.

Rogers, who is compiling an oral history of women graduates of the School of Medicine from the Class of 1920 to the present, met individually with alumnae to record their recollections of life in medical school. She spoke with about a dozen women from the classes of 1944 through 1986.

Most of the older women Rogers interviewed were either pediatricians or psychiatrists, specialties deemed appropriate for women in the early years of women’s admission to medical school. Although discrimination wasn’t a burning issue for the women Rogers interviewed, sometimes specific incidents surfaced as they spoke. One woman who graduated in the late 1960s remembered an uncomfortable episode during her surgical rotation. After an operation was over, she and the rest of the surgical team started discussing the case. As they talked, they moved together into the dressing room. A man in his underwear was irate that a woman had just entered the “doctors’” room and told her to use the room marked “nurses.”

“This was a powerful moment for her and not a deeply unusual story,” Rogers said.

Still, the women interviewed by Rogers looked back on their medical years with great fondness. “They were almost all upbeat,” she said. “Going to medical school was a marvelous experience. They got what they wanted and made some good friends along the way.”

Rogers said she undertook the oral history project to broaden what’s known about the history of the medical school and to inspire women to value their own stories. By the end of the weekend, Rogers said, a number of men came up to her and said, ‘When are you going to interview us?’”

Rogers likes that idea. 

Former surgery chair feted

At its 12th annual spring reunion in May the Yale Surgical Society honored surgeon, professor emeritus and author Arthur Baue, M.D., who spent 10 years at Yale as chair of surgery and surgeon in chief at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Baue’s daily mission, said Walter E. Longo, M.D., M.B.A., professor of surgery (gastroenterology), was to strive for excellence in patient care and student education. Longo credited Baue with laying the groundwork for a methodical approach to surgical education and setting standards for the peer review process in medical journals.

Baue called his decade at Yale “the highlight of my career” and said that what he misses most are his weekly meetings with students. “They didn’t take anything for granted,” he said. He recalled a student politely but firmly challenging something he’d said in class. “And you know what?” Baue said. “He was correct.”

Baue, who was at Yale from 1975 to 1984 before moving to St. Louis University, graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed a residency in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has authored or coauthored 12 books on medical topics, published 600 professional articles, edited a two-volume text on cardiothoracic surgery and served for 10 years as editor of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Surgery. His most recent book, Doctor, Can I Ask You a Question? Your Health Care Questions Answered, came out in March 2006. Baue continues to write but no longer sees patients. He and his wife, the Reverend Rosemary Dysart Baue, live on Fishers Island, New York.

The surgical society reunion also featured a talk on the future of thoracic surgery by Frank C. Detterbeck, M.D., chief and professor of thoracic surgery. Detterbeck described some of the new treatments on the horizon for lung cancer patients. From real-time imaging techniques and robotic surgery to artificial lungs and tailored chemotherapy, he said that tools being developed will enable doctors and patients to manage lung cancer in the not-too-distant future as a chronic disease rather than an often-fatal illness.

The society presented travel awards to third-year student Heather McGee, for $1,000, and to second-year student Amanda Silverio, for $500. The awards will help pay for McGee’s international travel clerkship in Zambia and for Silverio to attend and deliver a presentation at the American College of Surgeons conference this fall in New Orleans.

AIDS remains a global health threat

A diagnosis of AIDS used to be a death sentence, but in the 25 years since the disease was identified, drug therapies have vastly improved the long-term prognosis for many patients. With AIDS no longer dominating headlines or the obituary pages, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that it’s not a serious health threat anymore.

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to panelists in a workshop held at the School of Public Health’s Alumni Day reunion weekend. While a small percentage of patients have access to lifesaving drugs, AIDS remains a devastating illness for much of the planet, speakers said. “The Evolution of a Global Pandemic: The Story of HIV/AIDS and Health Policy Responses from around the World” focused on the ways different countries—Iran, China, Russia, the Caribbean nations and the United States—are handling the epidemic.

Keynote speaker Peter Selwyn, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of Leeway, a New Haven-based nursing facility for AIDS patients, and professor and chair of the Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said that to stop the spread of AIDS, the “transmission dynamics” must be understood. In Iran, for example, intravenous drug use is the major mode of AIDS transmission. In Asia, it is prostitution, and in Russia, it’s a combination of both. “You have to look locally at the specific dynamics of how AIDS is spread,” said Selwyn, who spent seven years at Yale as associate director of the AIDS program. That information can then be used to customize effective intervention strategies.

Post-communist Russia has become the perfect breeding ground for HIV/AIDS, with the second-fastest-spreading epidemic in the world after Ukraine. One reason for Russia’s dubious distinction, said Linda M. Niccolai, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology, is that the government won’t acknowledge the magnitude of the problem. “It doesn’t fit in with their international image,” she said. At a time when the government allocated only $4 million a year for local AIDS prevention and care, it was contributing $20 million to a global fund to fight AIDS elsewhere. “They have a desire to be seen as helping nations in need rather than being a nation in need,” Niccolai said.

The Caribbean, one of several locations where Kaakpema Yelpaala, M.P.H. ’06, has worked for the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, faces a different roadblock: stigma and discrimination. As a result, said Yelpaala, who is now based in the United States, patients often don’t get tested or seek treatment. Despite these obstacles, Yelpaala said there has been significant improvement in negotiating price reductions for the antiretroviral drugs used to treat AIDS.

Kaveh Khoshnood, M.P.H. ’89, Ph.D. ’95, assistant professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases), proposed what he called “health diplomacy”—improving international relations through collaborations centered around disease management. “Health can and should have a prominent role in global discussions,” he said.

While the disease remains a growing problem in North Africa and the Middle East, Khoshnood said a major shift in attitude on the part of some government officials in Iran has been positive. Iranian government officials now accept that HIV/AIDS is a serious problem and support such progressive measures as methadone treatment and needle exchange programs.

While China also has some enlightened AIDS policies, including free drugs for AIDS patients in rural areas, the stigma placed on patients and the financial burden of caring for them have thwarted adequate diagnosis and care, said Kenneth E. Legins Jr., M.P.H. ’95, chief of the HIV/AIDS Programme at the UNICEF Office for China. “Even when good policies do exist, stigma and discrimination— including parading sex workers through the streets to humiliate them—is a major barrier,” he said. Legins is hopeful that young people, with their more enlightened views, will help bring about a much-needed change in attitude in China.

Idalia Ramos Sanchez, M.P.H. ’81, associate director of the division of science and policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stressed that despite encouraging news about survival rates and treatment options, AIDS remains a serious problem in the United States, too. She advocates making AIDS testing routine and paying more attention to underlying problems that create barriers to care such as housing. “If you don’t have adequate housing, what good is a drug that needs refrigeration?” she asked. Public opinion polls have found that Americans now view AIDS as more of a global problem than a domestic one.

“It’s not seen as something urgent any more,” Sanchez said, “but it is.”

A vision for public health

Over lunch at the Lawn Club, Paul D. Cleary, Ph.D., told alumni of his efforts in his first year as dean of public health and described his vision for the future. He has streamlined the administration, he said, by reducing the number of committees. Searches are under way for scientists specializing in genomics, HIV, health management, analytic sciences and ecological epidemiology. And 11,000 square feet of new space have become available at 135 College Street.

Because public health is a small school, Cleary said, it can increase its impact through partnerships and alliances with other graduate and professional schools at Yale, as well as civic and government groups in New Haven. How, he asked, can New Haven have the health problems it does with such a pre-eminent research institution as Yale within its borders? “We have got to do better,” he said. “We have got to make New Haven better.” Noting a significant incidence of rickets in the city, he said, “It is not OK that this is happening.”

His vision includes a new yardstick for measuring success—improving the lives of people. “We are not just academicians,” he said. “We want to train people who will have an impact.”

After lunch, alumni were honored for their service to the school and their professional accomplishments. Elaine Anderson, M.P.H. ’76, who served in numerous positions in state government and at the school, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Carolyn Millman, M.P.H. ’84, who spent 20 years at the school, most recently in alumni relations, received the Bulldog Award. The Eric W. Mood New Professionals Award went to Kaakpema Yelpaala, M.P.H. ’06, who specializes in development and health issues at the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Kaveh Khoshnood, M.P.H. ’89, Ph.D. ’95, assistant professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases), and Edith Pestana, M.P.H. ’93, were named to the 2007 Alumni Public Service Honor Roll. Khoshnood was honored for his commitment to human rights, infectious disease prevention and the eradication of social stigma related to HIV/AIDS. Pestana was honored for embodying the underlying principle of the profession—protecting the health of the public.