Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2003: Class of 1978


A summary by Steve Beningfield


Steve Beningfield, Diana Bok, Howard Chait, Debbie Coleman, Aubrey Dickman, Rob Drummond, Monika Esser, Franz Ferraris, Jack Forbes, Paul Goldberg, Janet Halkett, Christine Hill, Anita Jacobs, Charlie Krull, Michael Levy, Michael Martin, Les Nathanson, Nanette Nicholson, John O'Brien, Mike Opitz, Mary-Ann Potts, Brian Rayner, Caryl Richmond, Peter Schram, Rob Seggie, Mirek Siroky, Graham (Jock) Stapleton, Des Theron, Tom Watson, Ian Webster, Nolan Wengrowe, Neil White, Frans (Ziets) Zietsman

(Click on the image to see a large version.)

As the mists of a quarter of a century cleared, quizzical looks were replaced by broad smiles and enthusiastic chatter as re-acquaintances commenced - and didn't stop for the weekend. Any uncertainty about how 25 years may have changed people was rapidly allayed as we discovered we weren't all that different, after all. The consensus was, however, that we gents had been weathered more by the passing of 25 years - our counterparts were all looking remarkably good!

After registration, a tour of the excellent modernised and computerised Health Sciences Faculty Library started off proceedings. Fortunately the students were on holiday, as familiar study nooks prompted be quite a buzz of conversation. Crossing over Anzio Road in George Dall's glass-enclosed walkway, with its dramatic view of Devil's Peak, took us to the UCT Private Academic Hospital on the D Floor of the New Groote Schuur Hospital . This 120-bed pilot private-public hospital works closely with GSH, and allows Provincial personnel controlled exposure to private practice, as in the American model. The visit to the Transplant Museum in the GSH " Old Main Building ", included a TV presentation on current GSH activities and a nostalgic trip through the reconstructed transplant theater and ward areas. An excellent lunch and dessert in The Tafelberg Room overlooking Observatory prompted further reminiscing - (recall those late night, call-sustaining, "slap" chips from "Chippies"?)

The evening cocktail party was held in the superbly renovated New Student Learning Centre (replacing the old anatomy lecture theatre), looking out at the zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Devil's Peak. The Dean's thought-provoking address especially impressed our overseas classmates, some of whom were unaware of the great shifts that have taken place.

Neil White and Paul Goldberg jointly chaired the academic meeting, which was brought forward to a bracing 8am start to accommodate the World Cup Rugby Final. Jack Forbes gave an enlightening overview of his HIV research work, including personal observations on his current sabbatical in Zimbabwe . Neil White presented an intriguing glimpse into the future of education with his remote teaching package of digitized chest X-rays of occupational lung disease, while Les Nathanson gave a superbly illustrated talk on aspects of Australian laparoscopic and hepatobiliary surgery. Ian Webster's presentation on pulsed-beam laser skin surgery led to good deal of self-inspection (and, I suspect, a few self-referrals!).

Brian Rayner gave an absorbing presentation on new insights into aldosterone in hypertension, followed by Paul Goldberg entertaining us with the Gems of Namaqualand, interlinking the geological passage of alluvial diamonds and the genetics of colon cancer. Tom Watson described a challenging case of neonatal intubation in a child with an oropharyngeal teratoma, with the evocative title, "Some must sleep, while others must watch". Steve Beningfield rounded off proceedings with a brief overview of selected current controversies in Interventive Radiology.

Thereafter everyone swiftly crossed the Liesbeeck Parkway to "The River Club", a driving range/ restaurant/ conference centre near Valkenberg and the old Hartleyvale soccer stadium. Despite the Kamp Staaldraad/ Straueli/ (insert your own interpretation here)-induced lack of South African's presence in the Final, the hugely entertaining spectacle was enjoyed by all.

Evening dinner was held at "The Hildebrand Restaurant", relocated from its subterranean Adderley Street location to the Waterfront near the old Bertie's Landing. A glorious early summer's evening, sherry overlooking the harbour activities and the mountain culminated in a delicious rack of Karoo lamb dinner. Monika Esser presented a challenging address on paediatric HIV, interlinking well with Jack Forbes' earlier presentation. After dinner, Neil White produced a series of digitized photographs of Med School days, including a number of well-known characters and activities of our era - remember the Clifton float races, and the Bummies? Pete Schram concluded the evening with a moving and warm impromptu recollection of his time as our class representative. He and Franz Ferraris (sporting silvering hair, bow-tie and that playful glint in the eye!) had both flown over, as had Aubrey Dickman, Debbie Coleman, Tom Watson, Les Nathanson, Jack Forbes, Chris Hill and Nolan Wengrowe. Sadly, some of our colleagues are no longer with us after the first 25 years, and were remembered to us by Neil White after dinner.

The next morning's walk thankfully started later at the Kirstenbosch top gate, heading to Constantia Nek. The cool breeze on the forested contour path to Constantia Nek encouraged chatting. A walk back through the Gardens and, for those who could find it, Colonel Bird's Bath offered a chance to enjoy its cool, moist, leafy canopy. Gone are the days when it could also provide a quick dip at the end of a long run - strictly outlawed these days! A splendid cold buffet lunch and drinks were waiting for us at Kirstenbosch, as were the late (make that lazy!) arrivals.

Against expectations, 48% of the class is still in SA (13% still in the Cape ), with 13% in Canada , 11% in the USA , 9% in the UK , 5% in Australia and 3% in New Zealand . Approximately 30% appear to have specialized (with Medicine the favourite (10), followed by Radiology (9), Paediatrics (8) (with Jack Bergman having done both Paediatrics and Radiology!), Anaesthetics (7) and Surgery (5).

The reunion felt like a report-back on an extended 25-year elective, with success or adversity tempered by reaffirmation. Strange to think of some the now-indispensable acronyms that meant nothing to us in 1978, such as WWW, CD-ROM, HIV, PDA, SMS and SARS - one wonders what new ones await us in the next 25!

A massive vote of thanks must go to the amazing Joan Tuff - her meticulous attention to detail and very supportive approach facilitates planning enormously. Regrettably my co-organiser Derek Hellenberg was unable to attend. All in all, it was a highly satisfying and memorable occasion, to be strongly recommended. Let's make it even better in 2008!