Old friends gather on alumni reunion weekend
Returning to New Haven for reunion, it wasn’t hard for many alumni to notice the positive changes to the city. New mass transit options, excellent hotels, and a developed downtown all made spending two or three days at Yale School of Medicine at the end of May and beginning of June an attractive proposition.
Some alumni enjoyed hearing Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine, deliver his State of the School address. Others found their tour of the school’s new clinical capabilities facilities (complete with ultrasound devices) useful and interesting. Others still enjoyed faculty lectures and alumni panels. There wasn’t enough time to do everything, but there was plenty of time to do what one wanted.
One thing everyone enjoyed was time with classmates. Catching up with old friends, some of whom hadn’t seen each other since the last reunion, or longer. Those personal bonds forged between young physicians fresh off their experience with Yale School of Medicine and its unique “Yale System” were strong enough to stand the test of time; certainly, for the graduates who traveled great distances to reach New Haven.
“I’ve been traveling to New Haven every five years,” said Dahlia Kirkpatrick, MD ’74, an oncologist practicing in Louisiana. “I don’t get back as often as I’d like.”
Friday, May 31, saw some alumni, including Larry Yeatman, MD ’69, attending a tour of the school’s new clinical training facilities, complete with novel ultrasound training devices. Dena Springer, MD ’04, and others attended a medical simulation center module, where they saw how current medical students are given preparation that is as realistic as possible.
Another event that day was a colloquium held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. With talks by two faculty members, Tamas Horvath, PhD, and Christopher van Dyck, MD, the colloquium was well attended. Attendees felt that Horvath and van Dyck’s lectures were a fitting and suitable way to commemorate the longstanding and reputable publication.
Many of the events fell on June 1, a beautiful Saturday, starting with the annual State of the School address by Alpern. In front of a packed Brady Auditorium audience, Alpern personally updated alumni on recent improvements to YSM, as well as changes that had occurred over the past five years. He was particularly upbeat about growth in the school’s endowment, which accounts to nearly $3 billion of the broader university’s nearly $30 billion in endowment funds. This, he indicated, put YSM on solid footing as a premier medical school.
“Physicians are scholars of medicine. There are many ways to provide health care in the United States, but what we stress here, first and foremost, is a scholarly approach to medicine. Students need to think about how to practice medicine, but also how to organize it.”
Alpern fielded questions from the audience afterward, discussing what the future held for the school, as well as his own future plans.
Harold Mancusi-Ungaro, MD ’74, the outgoing president of the Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM), introduced the incoming president, Lillian Oshva, MD ’96, and also presented the distinguished alumni awards to Leo M. Cooney Jr., MD ’69, and Douglas Berv, MD ’74, for their exceptional service within the YSM community. Mancusi-Ungaro also thanked past AYAM president Richard Kayne, MD ’76, for his ongoing efforts to assist and serve the YSM community as an alumnus.
When Mancusi-Ungaro finished speaking, Alpern had a surprise gift prepared: a Yale pen crafted by Scott Strobel, PhD, the Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and deputy provost of Yale University for teaching and learning. The wood, Alpern said, had been gotten from trees taken down around Yale.
From there, alumni attended a number of different events, including panels of YSM alumni discussing the paths their careers took after Yale, and lectures by faculty. Two panels each followed the experiences of three alumni from different classes following their graduation from YSM, and titled: “Paths we’ve traveled within medicine.” The first was comprised of Jessica Haberer, MD ’99, MS, Lisa Ragen Ide, MD ’89, MPH, and Robert M. Kolodner, MD ’74. The second consisted of Richard Awdeh, MD ’04, Elly Barry, MD ’99, and Doug Webber, MD ’84. Both saw the panelists interact with each other, as well as the audience, in exploring what about Yale had been so special.
The panels were Kirkpatrick’s favorite part of the reunion. “Hearing from the older and younger alumni was very enjoyable, and also helped crystalize how the education we received at YSM shaped our careers. It made us more flexible and willing to change in order to fill unmet needs in society. It made us leaders.”
Kirkpatrick spoke during the second panel, attesting to how her own career was shaped by peers and mentors at Yale, and summarized her thoughts via email: “I found psychiatry very interesting, and considered pursuing it as a career. In my day, however—I’m Class of ’74, like Dr. Kolodner and Dr. Berv—Yale was very heavily influenced by the Freudian school. There was clearly the perception that this wasn’t particularly relevant to the Black community, since the dominant parent was the mother. So, I looked for a specialty where psychiatry would satisfy an unmet need, and went into oncology instead. Oncology patients were often in need of psychiatric care and very reluctant to seek psychiatric care or share their anxieties with family and friends. As an oncologist, I was able to give the psychological support that patients needed, especially when dealing with the issues of death and dying. Providing that psychological support gave me just as much satisfaction and gratitude from the patients as healing the cancer. I was able to teach my students and fellows that psychological support was important to the healing process in cancer patients.”
Lectures by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, PhD, professor of psychiatry, and Carla Rothlin, PhD, associate professor of immunobiology and of pharmacology, offered alumni opportunities to connect with some of the research currently unfolding at YSM. Krishnan-Sarin’s lecture covered some of the observations she’d made and conclusions she’d reached into the addictive properties of vaping. The subject of Rothlin’s lecture was based on her research, too, and covered cellular death and its utility within organisms.
Following the day’s intellectual fare, the alumni convened to their various class dinners. The Class of ’69 were recognized with induction into the Kushlan Society in a special ceremony at their dinner. As the night wore on, attendees reflected with warmth on the school that had helped shape them, and so ensured that future classes would be able to similarly enjoy the site where so many dreams began.