Class of 1962: 50th Reunion

Friday night was windy and cold, but, at our class tables at dinner in Marigolds, everything was lively and warm. By Saturday noon, the light rain had stopped as more of us gathered for lunch—again with lots of conversations about our lives, our memories and our families. By Saturday evening, 28 of us plus 22 wives/companions arrived at the Union League Café for cocktails and dinner and for lots of talking and reminiscing. Many of the reunion activities described the growth and changes at the Medical School, but we were constantly reassured that “the Yale system is alive and well”.

The number of answers to the questionnaire items prepared by Dick Collins and Fred Cantor varied, but here are some of the results (percentages based on those who answered or were contacted).

Almost all (21/22) felt that Yale prepared us well for our careers and were happy with the Yale system. Five felt that more clinical/practical exposure and better integration of the scientific part of the curriculum with the clinical care of patients would be helpful. (As I understand the changes proposed by Dean Belitsky’s committee, the current students and faculty agree with this clinical emphasis.) Many faculty members and the research experience were cited as having been important influences on our careers. Those faculty members listed more than once were: Paul Beeson (with the most mentions), Ed Crelin (who later became editor of Gray’s Anatomy), Tom Forbes, Wayne Southwick, Gustav Lindskog, Averill Liebow, Phil Bondy, Gerry Klatskin and Bill German. As expected, our classmates named teachers in their own specialties but many also named some who taught in other areas. No one listed any residents, but I can think of some who taught us well.

Our class produced surgeons, medical subspecialists, many psychiatrists, and several pathologists, but fewer pediatricians and few primary care docs. We had four neurologists (including me), three of whom came from the only first year neuroanatomy section taught by a clinician.

Compared to others of our age group, 60 percent felt younger, 30 percent felt about the same and 10 percent felt older. Question: Compared to our peers, are we healthier or more optimistic or do most of us need better eyeglasses? Answer: Obviously, the way that we feel and act is far more important than physical appearance. And we are active. Twenty (55 percent) are working and four are working full time. Incidentally, two still working, Malcolm Martin and Malcolm Mitchell, had competing meetings this weekend. Most of us list time with family as a major activity. Presumably, we are able to make up for the lack of enough family time that occurred for many of us early in our careers.

Do most docs golf? Not in our class—only John Godley and Joe Ferrone. Joe, Dick Collins and I (Fred Cantor) seem to be the only tennis players—not even enough for doubles match! Bill Miller gave up tennis and concentrates on fly fishing. At dinner, several talked about sailing, but the only sailors that we had on our survey were Fred Anderson, John Harrington, Stew Wright and Dave Nicholas, who is also a swimmer. John German and Mickey Alderman are still biking, but Glenn Kelly has stopped biking over the Rockies. Spencer Brody has become a motorcycling enthusiast. We have two pilots—Charles Carl and Bill Meffert, who is also a flight instructor. Bill and I also like to hike. I think that retired surgeons like to continue working with their hands. John German is doing woodworking and sculpture, Bill Meffert is also a carpenter. Jim Spencer and Dick Pschirrer spend a lot of time on home and land maintenance; Joe Ferrone, Walt Karney and Dave McConnell are gardeners. Joe McCarthy is a part time baseball announcer. Nancy Staley raises show dogs.

We are a “cultured” and intellectually active bunch. Most of us spend time doing non-medical reading and several list theater, music and ballet as important recreational activities. A few are collectors. Several of us try to travel often (Connie Kyropolous, Joe Ferrone, John Harrington, Fred Cantor, Vic Hurst, Dave McConnell). Dave is also a bird watcher. Dick Collins, Dave Nicholas, Dave Adams (environmental) and Gary Jacobson have political or advocacy interests. Dave McConnell, Jim Spencer, Fred Cantor and George Christian are among those with volunteer activities.

We stayed in medical careers, some of which were a bit unusual. A few took administrative positions or new careers. John Harrington became dean of Tufts Medical School, Manny Lipson became VP and medical director of a premier rehab hospital, Spencer Brody became director of a home health care agency. Tom Chase now has his own drug development company. Lee Forstrom earned a Ph.D. and taught philosophy of science in addition to his academic nuclear medicine career. Pat Curtis (Hassikas) worked in the Los Angeles County Health Department after obtaining an M.P.H. Dave Nicholas is a leader of an international health organization. Gary Jacobson and Bill Meffert have writing careers in addition to medicine. Gary also paints. Dick Collins had an international medical career with the State Department.

We don’t have an accurate count of those who were full time in academic medicine, but we do know that many had affiliations with medical schools including several who remained connected to Yale for a time (Stan Matyszewski, Arnie Eisenfeld, John Godley, and Vic Hurst, until he moved to Florida). Dick Pschirrer founded a surgicenter that competed with Yale; it was eventually acquired by Yale.

Most of us had some military or public health corps experiences. Of note are Walt Karney, who was a career Navy doc and Rod Haff, who was in the Army for a least a dozen years. Clyde Emery served in Viet Nam where the Army let him work in both military and local hospitals. George Christian worked in a civilian Vietnamese hospital until he was captured by the North Vietnamese. Clyde and George have written detailed and interesting accounts of those experiences. These can be emailed to anyone who would like to read them.

The perceived changes in medicine since our graduation were grouped into three categories, in this order: technological and scientific advances that brought changes (and greater expense) to medical care, the increase in specialization and decrease in primary care, and the rise of “medical business” with the accompanying increase in paperwork.

Medicine is still an attractive career, according to 80 percent. Two reasons given are that medicine is interesting and that it is gratifying to be able to help someone in need. We recognized the financial burden of the cost and length of education coupled with changes in reimbursement. Some of us have children who are physicians (Pschirrer, Ferrone, Martin, Dann, Jim Spencer, Nicholas, and German—third generation of neurosurgeons). This may be an incomplete list.

Changes that some would like to see are a different payment system, increases in the availability of medical care, more primary care, and reduced paperwork. A comfortable majority of those present at Saturday’s dinner felt that it would be unfortunate if President Obama’s healthcare plans were invalidated by the Supreme Court. A smaller majority planned to vote to reelect Obama.

Those who attended were: Mickey Alderman, Fred and Anita Anderson, Spencer and Carol Brody, Fred and Jane Cantor, Tom Chase and Kitty Clarence-Smith, Dick and Lucie Collins, Bill and Ann Miller, Bruce Elfenbein and Chris Bastl, Arnie and Nancy Eisenfeld, Joe and Pat Ferrone, Al Folsom (just recently retired), John German, John and Jean Godley, John and Trudy Harrington, Walt and Flo Karney, Manny and Marcia Lipson, Stan and Maureen Matyszewski, Dave and Pat McConnell, Bill and Mimi Meffert, Dave Nicholas, Dick and Peggy Pschirrer, Jim and Joyce Spencer, and our psychiatry contingent of Charles and Diane Carl, Tom and Linda Dann, Gary and Susan Jacobson, Connie Kyropoulos, Dave Seil, and Woody Waldron and Nadine Castro.

I would like to apologize for a significant omission. In our zeal to update information about our classmates, we neglected our spouses.  They have also had careers and active lives including medicine, nursing, therapy, science, law, volunteering, political advocacy, horse-breeding, financial management, teaching, art and more. They participate in the variety of their spouses’ activities mentioned above. And certainly, our reunions are more lively and much more fun because of their presence.

Dick Collins and I had a good time getting in touch with our classmates. Dick’s contribution was invaluable. We both want to thank Debby Jagielow and the rest of the Alumni Office staff for their hard work in planning this weekend. Thanks to Dick Pschirrer for chairing the Reunion Gift Committee.

And for the future ...? Some of us think that we are a compatible group who shouldn’t have to wait another five years before getting together. Any suggestions?