Oct. 7, 2019 — It was a year for the history books: In 1969, man walked on the moon, Woodstock rocked upstate New York and “the great class of ‘69” received their medical degrees from the UF College of Medicine.
Robert Watson, M.D. ’69, former senior associate dean for educational affairs at the UF College of Medicine, calls his 57-member class the greatest to ever walk the halls. From establishing the Hippocratic Award to honor beloved faculty to the “total debauchery” of post-exam shindigs, Watson says his class was a “reasonably crazy group.”
“In medical school, you bond with your classmates in ways that are hard to imagine,” Watson said. “It’s the time you realize how important it is to be a team.”
Watson and several of his classmates reflected on the good, bad and crazy days of their medical training during the 2019 Alumni Weekend, which kicked off Friday morning with a Golden Gator breakfast for the class of 1969, celebrating 50 years since graduating.
During the breakfast, Diane Sutton, M.D. ’69, fondly remembered the jam-packed days of medical training, an environment in which she says she was treated as an equal during a time when women were vastly underrepresented in the field.
“If I could do medical school at UF all over again, I would,” said Sutton, whose career in psychiatry led her to treat Death Row inmates like Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. “We would spend all our time in our little study cubicles. We would go to the gross anatomy lab any time of the day or night if we needed to catch up. We only went home to shower, sleep and change clothes. It was a total immersion in the study of medicine.”
John Downs, M.D. ’69, credits the faculty at the UF College of Medicine for instilling in his class a lifelong love of learning. As a UF College of Medicine anesthesiology resident, Downs developed intermittent mandatory ventilation, a method of weaning patients who have been dependent on ventilators for months or more, which became standard operating procedure in the United States.
“We were told as students that medical school was just the beginning. We were going to keep learning long after graduation. This was absolutely true,” Downs said. “The people in my class continued learning throughout their long careers.”
After the Golden Gator breakfast, Alumni Weekend continued in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building with tours of the UF Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation, which houses several human patient simulators. Alumni were treated to demonstrations that simulated birth and cardiac arrest.
The 2019 Notable Alumnus Lecture was given Friday afternoon by Christopher Broder, Ph.D. ’89, the department chair of microbiology and immunology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. His talk, “Bats, Pigs, Horses, Oh My!” outlined his work battling emerging zoonotic viruses transmitted from animals to humans.
Broder, along with UF Diabetes Institute Director Mark Atkinson, Ph.D. ’88, was recognized Friday evening for his inclusion into the UF College of Medicine Wall of Fame. The Wall of Fame award and recognition ceremony was created in 1988 to recognize outstanding alumni who have made contributions to medicine, government, education and the community.
“It’s an unexpected, fantastic honor to be named to the Wall of Fame,” Broder said.
UF College of Medicine dean Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., honored Broder and Atkinson at the Wall of Fame reception for family, friends and colleagues in the Founders Gallery.
“This award is special because this place is home,” Atkinson said. “I’ve had chances to leave and go to different places, but I always felt that for my dreams and goals, there would be no other place I could do more for Type 1 diabetes than UF. I work with great people and we’re on the cutting edge. I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Other Alumni Weekend events included a scholarship luncheon that joined together scholarship recipients and alumni, the annual Celebrating Classes dinner, a tailgate celebration and an Innovations in Research presentation from UF Health Shands chief medical officer Parker Gibbs, M.D. ’89, outlining his multidisciplinary approach to treating pediatric patients with osteosarcoma.
“I attend Alumni Weekend every fifth year, and I attended every single year when I was a dean,” Watson said. “I love to see my classmates and to see all the impressive changes to our campus. Medical school sure was a grind, but we sure had fun.”