Alumni

'Just Like Family'

Monday, December 1, 2014

By Jane Erikson

At our 2014 Reunion and Homecoming tailgate party, we asked some of you to describe your reunion experience – in one word.

The most frequent responses: "fabulous” and “family.”

“Family,” said Mark Tamaroff, MD, a graduate of the Class of 1974, and an allergy and asthma specialist in Long Beach.

“We were the fourth graduating class,” he noted. “We haven’t seen each other in five years, at least, and we can start up a conversation like it was two days ago.”

“Fabulous,” said Tara Gregory, MD, Class of 2004, and a hematologist and bone-marrow transplant specialist in Denver.

“It’s fun to see all these people who I haven’t seen in so long,” Dr. Gregory said. “It’s been 10 years and it’s great to be with them again.”

“Family” also came to mind for Tamara Clark Lieberman, MD, Class of 2004 and an internal medicine physician in Phoenix. She was at the tailgate with her husband, Mark Lieberman, and their two children: Zoe, who is 3 ½, and Hendrix, who just turned 1.

“Family,” she said. “This is just like family who we haven’t seen in 10 years.”

In 2013, our reunion offered a Continuing Medical Education Course for the first time. “Innovative Medicine: New Approaches to Old Challenges” was so well received that we offered it again this year. Our instructors gave alumni new information and renewed inspiration.

David Armstrong, MD, professor of surgery and director of the UA’s Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance, offered alumni “A Visit to the Human App Store,” which included a look at exoskeletons, which can increase strength and mobility for individuals, ranging from amputees to heavy-equipment workers; and smart shirts, smart socks and smart bathmats, which he expects will become common in the near future.

Nancy Sweitzer, MD, PhD, who became director of the Sarver Heart Center and division chief of cardiology in March of this year, discussed “Great Problems of Nature: Progress in Mechanical Circulatory Support as a Treatment for Advanced Heart Disease.”  Her talk focused on left ventricular assist devices, take-home artificial hearts and other mechanical breakthroughs for patients who require cardiac support and transplant.

Sister Adele O’Sullivan, MD, CSJ, a graduate of the Class of 1984 and the UA family medicine residency in 1987, gave a moving presentation on “Caring for the Patient Experiencing Homelessness: Adapting Your Practice.” Dr. O’Sullivan is founder, medical director and president of Circle the City, a medical respite center that opened two years ago in downtown Phoenix, for homeless individuals who need care after hospitalization.

Phoenix hospitals and other health providers, sports teams and private philanthropists gave $1.5 million to make Circle the City a reality. Hospitals find they are saving money by discharging patients to the respite center, rather than having to readmit them.

One example of how Dr. O’Sullivan has adapted her practice to people who are homeless: She made regular “house” calls to a pregnant woman who lived in an appliance-sized cardboard box. The outcome: a healthy baby boy.

Reunion also offers alumni the chance to say thanks, once again, to the people who taught and mentored them on their way to becoming MDs.

Every year, those thanks are heaped on Norm Koelling, who has been teaching anatomy since 1969 – now as a retired volunteer – and who received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the College of Medicine in 1993.

“You were calm and kind, and you told us, ‘Don’t freak out. You can do this,’” Erin Hagan Bradley, MD, Class of 1989, told the beloved teacher. “We appreciate you more than we’ll ever be able to say.”