Paying It Forward
Service to Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and students who are entering the medical profession was the watchword when the Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM) met during the 2023 reunion.
"I've always said that contributing here was a certain payback for what Yale has given me," Harold Mancusi-Ungaro, Jr., MD '73, told his fellow alumni when the association met. "You're all here because we're paying it forward to the next group of graduates."
During the meeting, Mancusi-Ungaro received the AYAM'S Distinguished Service Award. In presenting the award, AYAM President J. McLeod “Mac” Griffiss, MD '66, praised Mancusi-Ungaro for actively supporting YSM in various ways. When serving as vice president and president of AYAM, for example, Mancusi-Ungaro contributed and helped collect oral histories of graduates who described and recorded how Yale's special approach to medical education gave them the flexibility to pursue their passions and shape their education.
"This serves as a perpetual tribute to, and the case for, the Yale System," Griffiss said about Mancusi-Ungaro's work with alumni. "This system shaped you, and in a real way, you have had a profound impact on it. You are a true son of Yale."
A role model for future generations
Mancusi-Ungaro was also among more than 60 of his classmates who were inducted into the Kushlan Society, an alumni group for people who have celebrated their 50th anniversary of graduating from YSM. The society is named for Samuel Kushlan, MD '35, who was a longtime member of the Yale faculty.
"This is in honor of your years of being a role model for generations to come, just as Dr. Kushlan was," Griffiss told the graduates.
Christine Walsh, MD '73, was one of the alumni inducted into the Kushlan Society. When Walsh graduated, she was one of seven women in a class of 97 students. Walsh, who pursued a career in pediatric cardiology, has been back to Yale many times in the intervening years and is active in the university's alumni community.
Walsh noted how different the medical school is from when she was there. The incoming Class of 2026, for example, comprises more than half women. One of Walsh's mentors was Marie Brown, MD, who also specialized in pediatric cardiology and was one of a small number of women on the medical school faculty in the early 1970s. Today, nearly 30% of the medical school's professors are women.
"There was not much diversity when I was here," Walsh said. "Faculty are mentors, and there were not that many women. But now that's all different."
Walsh said that while she is happy to see more women at the medical school, she is pleased that some other things have remained the same.
"The Yale System is alive and well with Dean (Nancy) Brown, as it was when I was here," Walsh said.
Griffiss also talked about how the AYAM is ramping up its efforts to help the medical school and its students. That includes strengthening the organization by creating an emeritus status for past leaders so they can remain involved in the organization's business after stepping down from active roles.
"We needed to have a way to have the insights and experience of our past leaders available to us as we move forward, " Griffiss said.
Sharing advice with students
Other initiatives will focus on students and recent graduates. Griffiss said that AYAM Vice President Paul Leong, MD ‘99, is running virtual meetings with alumni in various medical specialties to give students advice before they start their careers. Griffiss said the first of those meetings is planned for later this summer and will focus on neurosurgery. A forum for aspiring pediatricians is set to follow.
The AYAM will also develop a program to help recent graduates with financial literacy. Griffiss said that would include advice on getting disability insurance if they suffer workplace injuries that can make continuing to practice challenging.
"This is something that nobody ever talked to me about when I was in medical school," Griffiss said. "Let's say you become a plastic surgeon and develop carpel tunnel syndrome. Then what?"