Medical Alumni Weekend 2011 Sets Record Attendance
Alumni Weekend 2011 celebrated the Miller School of Medicine’s past, present, and future, with three days of activities dedicated to bringing together former medical school classmates. A record-breaking 400 medical alumni and friends attended seminars, ceremonies, professional workshops, and receptions, traveling from as far away as Guam and Washington State to attend.
The weekend began Friday afternoon, March 4, with a keynote address by Class of 1989 alumna Karen Koffler, M.D., on effective strategies to enhance wellbeing. A former emergency room physician, Koffler says that “a majority of ICU patients are there because what they do on a daily basis is not supportive of good health. I wanted to change that.” Dr. Koffler, who is medical director at Canyon Ranch Living – Miami Beach, highlighted 12 essential activities—from proper breathing to taking supplements—that health-conscious individuals should incorporate into their daily routines to cultivate better health and stay out of the ER.
Later Friday, first-year medical students and their families gathered for the 11th annual John G. Clarkson Freshman Pinning Ceremony, followed by a dinner hosted by Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and receptions for the classes of 1956, 1961, and 1971 on the medical campus.
Saturday morning brought the weekend’s academic component into play with three continuing medical education sessions focusing on advances in medical research and patient care. The first session, led by James Grichnik, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Melanoma Program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery, focused on melanoma detection and tumor stem-cell biology.
Seth Thaller, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery, conducted a session on interdisciplinary care for cleft lip and palate, where he addressed the implementation of an interdisciplinary cleft care clinic in Haiti.
The medical education sessions wrapped up with a presentation by Luigi Meneghini, M.D., M.B.A., professor of clinical medicine and director of clinical operations in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, on new approaches to insulin management and diabetes.
The Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon Saturday afternoon brought together nearly 100 alumni and other supporters of the Miller School to meet with grateful students, faculty, and staff. Dean Goldschmidt told the crowd of supporters the story of Kristy Whyte, a UM undergraduate and track and field star, with a dream of earning her medical degree at the Miller School.
“Knowing that the financial support she would need to attend medical school was out there motivated this bright, young student to study for her MCAT exam and improve her score by three orders of magnitude,” Dean Goldschmidt said. Whyte has been accepted and will begin classes in August as a member of the Class of 2015.
Selection committee chair for the John K. Robinson Scholarship Kenneth Keusch, M.D., Class of 1963, told of the more than $17,000 in grants awarded to 18 students this year to not only pay for medical school expenses but to further students’ research and provide them with opportunities to attend conferences to present their findings.
Stefania Prendes, a third-year medical student, received two separate grants to present at child and adolescent psychiatry conferences. “With these grants,” Prendes said, “I was able to make some critical contacts and share my work with like-minded professionals interested in the same area of study.”
Second-year medical student Rimsky Denis was also awarded stipends through the scholarship fund to present his field research on public health in Ghana at two national conferences. “The financial support I received helped to fuel my passion for medical study and public service,” Denis said. The luncheon concluded with the Medical Parents Association recognizing Director of Medical Alumni Development Glenda Weiss Rodriguez for her efforts to establish the Medical Parents Endowed Scholarship, which awards roughly $12,500 each year to a deserving medical student.
“Scholarships, grants, and endowments are critical to this institution, and even more important to the bright young scholars who might not be able to attend medical school without the support of the people in this room,” Dean Goldschmidt told those in attendance. “We cannot thank you enough for your support.”
Saturday evening marked the weekend’s crowning event, the Alumni Reception and Banquet. Guests gathered under the stars at the historic Biltmore Hotel, original home of the medical school, for a reception where they mingled with classmates to reminisce and catch up.
A separate reception was held for graduates of the Ph.D. to M.D. Program, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. As the evening progressed, alumni and friends made their way indoors for the Alumni Banquet and celebrations of the reunion classes of 1956, ’61, ’66,’71,’76, ’81, ’86, ’91, ’96, and 2001. Medical Alumni Association President Ruth Schobel, M.D., Class of 1981, called the program to order by welcoming classes celebrating milestone anniversaries, such as the 55th reunion of the Class of 1956.
After a brief video-taped welcome from Dean Goldschmidt, who could not attend, Dean Emeritus Bernard J. Fogel, M.D., spoke of the rich history of the Miller School, recounting stories of his own from the Class of 1961, and inviting others—Norman M. Kenyon, M.D., Class of 1956; Sandy Jacobson, M.D., Class of 1961; and Karl Muench, M.D., professor of medicine and former director of the Ph.D. to M.D. Program—to speak as well.
Closing the evening’s program, Dr. Fogel acknowledged that he and former Dean John G. Clarkson, M.D., led the medical school for almost half of its existence and commended Dean Goldschmidt for taking an “extremely excellent, but still young, school and making it equal to institutions with hundreds of years of experience and large endowments.”
Sunday morning marked the inaugural Heritage Breakfast, where the classes of 1956-86 were invited to learn about estate planning from Cynthia Beamish, Esq., executive director of estate and planned giving at the University of Miami.