More than 200 people attended this year’s College of Medicine Founding and Early Faculty Dinner, March 10 at Tucson Country Club. It couldn’t have been a prettier evening, with temperatures in the high 70s, a gorgeous Tucson sunset and the Santa Catalina Mountains darkening in the background.
The dinner got rave reviews. Faculty enjoyed comparing experiences with the 14 first- and second-year medical students who greeted them and sat at their dinner tables. It was an opportunity to connect and reconnect, and even make new friends.
Mary Ann Sullivan, MD, attended the dinner with her husband, John Orozco, MD. She was on the College of Medicine faculty from 1970 to 1975, while he was in private practice. In 1970, Dr. Sullivan served for 11 months as medical director of what was then El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center, started by the late Herbert K. Abrams, MD, with funding from Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
“We didn’t know anyone there, but we had a great time anyway,” Dr. Sullivan said. “We got to meet Martha Ortiz,” who was married to the late Augusto Ortiz, MD, who also worked at El Rio. In 1976, the Ortizes started Family and Community Medicine’s Mobile Health Clinic, which continues to provide health care to underserved families in Pima County.
“I had never met her before but her husband was a wonderful man,” Dr. Sullivan said. “Meeting her was a great joy for me.”
Dr. Orozco also worked at El Rio in the early days, when it was a small building west of the Freeway near Downtown. He recalled helping to train seven nurse practitioners – the first in Arizona. “They were so outstanding we called them the Magnificent Seven,” Dr. Orozco said. “There was a lot of groundbreaking in those days.”
Dinner speakers were Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia, MD, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the UA, and Charles “Chuck” Cairns, MD, interim dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.
“Tonight we recognize the College of Medicine’s founding faculty, and those faculty members who have been with the college for 25 or more years,” Dr. Garcia said. “Your many years of service, hard work, and dedication to the College of Medicine, and to providing exceptional medical education, have made it possible for us to be where we are today.”
One of the earliest faculty members in attendance was Norm Koelling, who began teaching anatomy to College of Medicine students in 1969. It so happened that the night of the dinner was Koelling’s birthday. “I’m 83. I don’t try to hide my age anymore,” he said with a laugh.
Dr. Cairns recognized the occasion, and led the dinner guests in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.
Founding faculty member John Palmer, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of pharmacology, came to the UA in 1966 as the founding director of the Multidiscipline Laboratories – and one of only three faculty members on board. The other two were Philip Krutzsch, PhD, and Oscar Thorup, MD. Merlin K. “Monte” DuVal, MD, was there as dean of the College of Medicine, which would open the following year.
Dr. Palmer attended the March 10 dinner, and invited a former student and colleague, Stephen Bailey, MD, who graduated with the College of Medicine’s first class, in 1971.
Founding faculty member Gordon Ewy, MD, was recruited to College of Medicine cardiology section in 1969, and served as its chief. He also served as chief of cardiology from 1982 to 2010, and as director of Sarver Heart Center from 1991 until his retirement in June 2013.
When Dr. Ewy came to the UA, he started a 10-Year Club for faculty, who would celebrate 10 years with the College of Medicine by going out to dinner. “We turned it into the 20-Year Club, and the 25-Year Club.
“It’s a good idea to get together like this,” Dr. Ewy said after the dinner. “It’s very nice, to have time to see a lot of the people you haven’t seen in a while.”
By Jane Erikson