Connecting, Engaging, Coming Home - Reunion 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

By Jane Erikson

For Cynthia Holdren, MD, the 2013 College of Medicine Reunion was about coming home.

“I came here hoping to see some old friends, and to see my best friend, Marilyn Medweid,” said Holdren, an anesthesiologist practicing in Seattle.

Holdren and Medweid, a Tucson gynecologist, graduated with the Class of 1978. Holdren’s favorite med school memory is what she did the night after she graduated.

“A friend and I walked up Mount Wrightson. We got to the top of the mountain at sunrise. It was just amazing. And that’s just a simple example of what Tucson always was for me – beautiful and natural. I was born in Tucson, at TMC, so this is really home for me.”

Medweid said commencement is her favorite memory of medical school. “It was a very special experience. Getting hooded was amazing,” she said. She also remembers the ’78 commencement speaker: a not-so-well-known doctor by the name of Andrew Weil – today the best-known integrative medicine doctor in the world.

Bob Beauchamp, MD, Class of 1973, said he didn’t want to wait for his class’s 50th reunion to see how his former classmates are doing. Beauchamp started out in pediatrics, but now is a medical director for the Rocky Mountain States division of UnitedHealthcare.

“It’s fun to come back, and it’s great to see Norm,” said Beauchamp, referring to Norm Koelling, the much-loved anatomy instructor who, like Beauchamp, came to the College of Medicine in 1969. Koelling, who is still teaching gross anatomy, was always willing to answer students’ questions, Beauchamp said. “A bunch of us would be in the lab late at night, preparing for an exam, and we would have a question and we’d call Norm at home and he’d say, ‘I’ll meet you there.’”

Pathologist Janie Hicks, MD, attended the reunion “wearing two hats,” as a member of the Class of 1973, and as “early faculty.” Once she graduated, she joined the faculty of the department of pathology, but “gave up tenure” to join a UA start-up that is now the internationally successful Ventana Medical Systems. 

Hicks recalled the teacher who most inspired her during med school: Jack Layton, MD, the first head of pathology, who became acting dean in 1971, after founding dean Merlin K. DuVal, MD, left to serve two years as assistant secretary of health in the Nixon administration.

“Dr. Jack Layton was a renaissance man for his time,” Hicks said.

Layton, now 93, attended the reunion dinner at Westward Look Resort. “It’s a real pleasure to see some of those who were your students, and to see how successful they’ve become,” Layton said. “It’s a real credit to the College of Medicine.”

Layton also recalled the “symbiotic relationship” between the college’s founding faculty and early students. “On Saturdays we would have class until noon, and then the students and faculty would go play golf. It was great.”

This year’s reunion included  “Innovative Medicine: New Approaches to Old Challenges,” a continuing medical education course, offered for the first time this year.

Among the course instructors was Jim Scott, MD, a graduate of the Class of 1983, professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, and co-founder of the Global Health Service Partnership. Scott, who was named the College of Medicine’s 2013 Alumnus of the Year, talked about the desperate need to train more doctors in developing countries like Ethiopia, where there is one physician for every 33,000 patients – compared to one physician for every 390 patients in the U.S. 

The reunion also included Med School 2.0, an afternoon of tours of the College of Medicine’s simulation and telemedicine labs – and Koelling’s gross anatomy lab, where the former students examined a dissected head and upper torso of a man who died in 1970.

“When this man willed his body to us, he didn’t know how much exposure he would get,” Koelling said with a smile. “Or how many students he would teach.”

Med School 2.0 also gave alumni a chance to sit in on a neurology class where students tackle questions in groups. Pathologist Michael Dugan, MD, Class of 1988, attended the class with his family, including son Ryan, a high school sophomore who seemed engrossed in the lesson on cranial nerves. Did that mean Ryan was interested in medical school?

“You never know,” his father said with a smile.

The only possible negative to the reunion weekend was the Wildcats crushing loss to the UCLA Bruins. But the Homecoming parade and tailgate party drew hundreds of happy Wildcats for Life – among them, College of Medicine Dean Steve Goldschmid, MD.

“The College of Medicine reunion events this year were spectacular,” Goldschmid said, “starting with the CME class in the morning, the Med School 2.0 talks in the afternoon, followed by the Alumni of the Year awards and the dinner at Westward Look. The alumni uniformly have told me everything has been great this year. That’s not what happens every year. So I think this really was our best ever. And it’s been really, really a lot of fun.”

We’ve put together a collage of reunion and homecoming photos. Click on the link to enjoy a bit of the weekend all over again.