Sept. 21, 2017 — In a cozy nook near the third-floor staircase of the George T. Harrell M.D., Medical Education Building, a group of 2007 UF College of Medicine alumni, family and friends gathered Saturday to honor the memory of Matt Smith, M.D. ’07.
Classmates dedicated the space to Smith, who passed away at 37 from the rare bone cancer Ewing’s sarcoma last September. The nook houses a table and four chairs, and a plaque on the wall commemorates Dr. Smith. Brendan Prendergast, MD ’08, who established the Class of 2007 Reunion Fund in Memory of Dr. Matthew T. Smith, said the space honors his friend’s penchant for deep discussion and connection with his colleagues.
“Matt was a phenomenal physician, but he also liked talking about philosophy and life. I like to say he was a jack of all trades and a master of all,” he said. “In the spirit of Matt, we hope students gather here to share ideas, socialize and talk about life.”
The 2017 UF College of Medicine Alumni Weekend, held Sept. 15-16, provided opportunities for alumni to reconnect and remember the relationships they built during their time as medical students.
Events kicked off Friday afternoon in the UF Health Shands Auxiliary Conference Center with a student panel on the future of medicine. Students from a number of programs in the college shared their journeys to medical school, their dreams for the future and the innovative skills they’ve learned so far.
James Fenton, HS ’96, an internal medicine and pulmonary critical care doctor based in Denver, was struck by the students’ enthusiasm.
“It’s fun to see young people so excited about their professions and about making a difference both in medicine and the lives of others,” he said.
Samuel R. Browd, M.D. ’00, Ph.D. ’00, provided the notable alumnus lecture Friday titled “Innovation and Impact: Disrupting the Football Helmet Industry.” Browd is an inventor, entrepreneur and professor of pediatric neurological surgery at the University of Washington. He co-founded and serves as chief medical officer for VICIS Inc., which is developing a football helmet designed to mitigate the forces likely to cause concussion.
Innovations in Research, held later in the day, featured presentations from Ashley Brown, Ph.D., program director and assistant professor within the Institute for Therapeutic Innovation, Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona in Orlando; Mattia Prosperi, MEng, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of epidemiology; and Eric Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology. Alumni were treated to discussion of antiviral therapies for emerging viral infections like Zika, big data science in precision medicine and continuing research of diseases like myotonic dystrophy.
Friday’s events wrapped up with the Celebrating Classes Dinner, at which alumni of the celebrating classes from 1962 to 2012 enjoyed a cocktail hour and a seated dinner complete with a video presentation.
Saturday began with the Diversity and Health Equity Brunch, led by Donna Parker, M.D. ’90, associate dean for diversity and health equity at the UF College of Medicine. Parker outlined the Office for Diversity and Health Equity mission of recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups in medicine through mentoring and scholarship.
“We know we’re living in a time of challenges in terms of race issues. And those issues affect our students,” she said. “We are an environment of security and support for our students.”
A student-alumni speed networking session in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building provided time to share wisdom and advice. Alumni Weekend events culminated with the annual tailgate and watch party, during which alumni enjoyed a buffet, face-painting and a photo booth, replete with orange and blue props.