Reunions held in 2006: Class of 1976

15 - 17 December 2006

Foreword by Franca Falanga


Clive Balfour, Billy Bischoff, Johan Brink, Paul Blignaut, David Broide, Richard Corkin, Chris Curwen, Chris Dark, Tim Davidson, Mike Dean, Michael Diamond, Franca Falanga, Michael Foden, Charles Gibbs, Max Kasselt, Brenda Kaye (Kerbel), Maurice Levy, Ed Marais, Stan Matthews, Jeffrey Melmed, Sue Parry, Tony Pienaar, Deryck Pilkington, Tony Pienaar, Réne Stewart, Rob Tribe, Mark Vincent, Karin Von Wenzel, Geoff Waters

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

Having organized the 25-year Reunion 5 years ago (was it really such a short while ago?), I agreed with a little trepidation when Joan Tuff contacted me to ask whether the Class of '76 would like another. At the last one Steve Jooste had promised to help next time around, so in November 2005, he was contacted and duly roped in. Sadly, Steve died from a massive MI on Christmas Day.

Nevertheless, the forever optimistic Joan told me "you can do it, doll". No way, I thought, not alone, albeit with the highly efficient Joan who, as it turned out, did everything anyway. But I felt I needed someone to help make the important decisions about the programme, guest speakers, venues, etc. Clive Balfour willingly (??) agreed, and so the Organising Committee was formed. We tried to contact everyone from the class. Joan sent out loads of emails. Unfortunately many didn't even respond to one of these. I resorted to some personal emails and phone calls. Only 7 came from Cape Town, out of a total of 28. They hailed from various parts of the globe, and although it was a small group, it was a very memorable weekend.

Friday dawned and I arrived at Medical School bright and early to find Joan Tuff already set up and ready to go. People started arriving and nervous squeals of recognition were heard. It was really amazing how we almost turned the clock back … Brenda Kaye (now Kerbel) kept a personal account of events, and her reflections I think echo those of all of us. Brenda, I'm sorry I had to edit your "report" ...

Report by Brenda Kerbel (Kaye)

The first announcement of the upcoming 30th reunion of the class of 1976 came in early January 2006. A few months later, another reminder. I kept them in my INBOX but dismissed them with guilt every time I checked my mail. I had let the 25 year reunion go by. I must admit that nostalgia had set in when I viewed some photos of that event. I really had lost touch with my former classmates and could barely recall some of their names. The October deadline drew closer and closer. I filled out the personal profile for the pamphlet and resigned myself to the fact that the 30th would pass by as well. Then one early cold December morning I arose and entertained the thought of a warm and sunny Cape Town. I immediately emailed the "mysterious" Joan Tuff who said that it was never too late to register.

I then prepared myself for meeting up with my former classmates. From the list I saw that at least one member of our tutorial group was planning to attend. It was David Broide who I had seen a year ago in San Diego. I connected with him via email and he confirmed that he would be there. I had about 10 days to get prepared.


1976 reunion
1976 reunion harbour


I arrived in Cape Town two days before the event. Friday morning arrived. I was so excited but quite apprehensive at the same time. I had driven past the UCT medical school and Groote Schuur Hospital many times over the past 30 years during my yearly visits to Cape Town but this time I had to consult the map as to how to approach the hospital from De Waal Drive as there were now new exit ramps. I breathed a sigh of relief as I approached familiar territory. I consulted my map again for the parking lot. I had to identify myself to the security guard who then lifted the gate and guided me to the parking lot at Old Anatomy Building. The venue for registration was the Barnard Fuller Building and the time stated was for 10 am. With directions in hand I walked towards the general vicinity of the Barnard Fuller building and then, to my relief, was greeted by prominently placed arrows directing the class of 1976 to the meeting point. Again another security check as I entered the building. I walked with trepidation towards the chattering of voices. Immediately I was greeted with a warm and friendly smile who said "You must be Brenda. You look just like your photo" and she handed me a large folder. "Joan Tuff, I presume." Joan has been instrumental in organizing all the medical school alumni events and is an absolute pro at her work. I was indeed glad to finally meet her. I labelled myself and began to navigate the room for some familiar faces. I found Dave Broide. At first glance, the sea of faces looked totally strange and I was slow, diving into the crowd. At the best of times I am poor at face recognition. So this was a real challenge and I certainly did not want to offend anybody. I found that I was magnetically attracted to the name tags and then slowly my eyes moved up towards the face. It was like playing a game of match the face to the name tag. Refreshments were served at this registration event but everyone was so occupied with salutations that the food was hardly touched. An announcement was made, the group corralled together and the tour of the medical school campus and hospital was about to begin. New buildings, new labs, new tutorial rooms and lecture theatres. State of the art library and computers. Everything under lock and key. Our tour guide informed us of the perils of living in the new South Africa. Cameras stolen out of ceilings, computers out of labs, etc. Swipe cards are the order of the day to gain entry into any place.

From the medical school it was off to tour the new Groote Schuur Hospital. The highlight was the tour of the Christian Barnard Museum commemorating the first human heart transplant. Our own Johan Brink is now second in charge of the Cardiac Transplant Unit. After a comprehensive tour of some of the wards and the new transplant facility we were treated to a beautifully catered lunch where old acquaintances were re-established. I found myself one of the last to leave. By the end of the morning I was exhausted both mentally and physically. My brain was working overtime retrieving memories from 30 plus more years. After lunch Johan Brink was called to do a heart transplant while I could not wait to take a rest. Too much sensory input for one day.


1976 reunion cocktails
1976 reunion cocktails


The cocktail party in the evening was held in the foyer of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine Building located next to the old physiology building as we knew it. This is a very contemporary glass structure in the centre of the campus. Prof Herman de Groot (retired Obs/Gynae) gave a little welcome to the class and some humorous reflections over the years. We were also introduced to the new Dean of the Medical School. Much has transpired since the times of Bromilow Downing! I took my dad, Dr Solly Kaye, to this event and he had the opportunity to meet members of my class. They were all so forthcoming and friendly towards him and from that moment on he was a member of the team.

Saturday morning was a real treat. The programme was held in the Wolfson Pavillion and it comprised some formal academic presentations, as well as spontaneous reflections of class members. I can't remember when last I sat for so long in a lecture theatre without dozing off or just quietly escaping. UCT graduates have traditionally made their mark all over the world and we were indeed privileged to have some true stars in their field come from the Class of 1976. Johan Brink gave a tribute to Chris Barnard and an insight into cardiac transplantation as it is today at Groote Schuur. Mark Vincent, based in London , Ontario, gave a presentation on the high powered research that he is doing on a chemopotentiator drug called Tesmilifene for Breast Cancer. Sue Parry gave a moving presentation on HIV/ AIDS in Southern Africa. She is working with the World Council of Churches to bring anti-retrovirals as well as counselling to HIV/AIDS patients. Clive Balfour talked about his being instrumental in bringing the new discipline of Emergency Medicine to South Africa. He also talked about the frustrations of running the department and the total lack of funds. Charles Gibbs, who resides in the UK, gave an engaging presentation of South African Porphyria and David Broide, based in San Diego, presented asthma and allergies and some breakthrough discoveries that he has made in that field. My contribution to the morning was a 4 minute documentary on child rape in South Africa. This was an edited version of a 24 minute film, titled 'Uthando Labatwana - For the Love of Our Children', which was written and produced by a young relative of mine, 16 year old Ashley Kaimowitz who was horrified and then inspired when she visited the poverty-stricken township of Khayelitsha on a field trip with her school. Tragically, Ashley was killed by a drunk driver last year but her legacy remains and through the movie her foundation has raised enough money to build a counselling and safe centre for the children of Khayelitsha. This really touched me as my goal in Primary Care Paediatrics is to keep children safe and healthy and it disturbs me to see so much dysfunction and abuse of children in the world. Franca Falanga introduced us to the daily running of the Department of Anaesthetics at Groote Schuur Hospital. With her feisty personality she tackles a job well that can be associated with many headaches. She has great organisational skills and, together with Clive Balfour, they helped coordinate the events of the weekend. Réne Stewart, another dedicated practitioner in Pietermaritzburg, gave her perspective of practicing in that HIV/AIDS rampant area. Everyone had a story to tell. How they ended up where they are today and the circuitous paths that some of them had to take. Karin Von Wenzel missed the morning presentations due to a family wedding but I know that she too has made her mark in the field of Nuclear Medicine in Windhoek. My dad, Dr Solly Kaye, and Johan Brink's mom, Dr Charlotte Webber, were seated in the front row and were the honoured guests. My dad, at 84, still works as a General Practitioner in Cape Town and was an inspiration to all the attendees. Both he and Dr Webber were members of the illustrious class of 1946 that yielded Prof Chris Barnard. There was just so much to digest that morning. People really opened up about their personal lives. There were laughs as well as tears. People just let go of their inhibitions. They shared personal triumphs as well as tragedies. We were taken on a journey to New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Canada, USA, Zimbabwe and our own South Africa. This was only a small sample of the class but a multitude of specialties were represented. If only we could have completed the puzzle with all the missing pieces of this masterpiece of a class.

The programme came to an end when some people had to catch the ferry to Robben Island.

I was somewhat apprehensive about driving alone in Cape Town at night, so Dave Broide and I arranged to attend the Gala Dinner together at Smuts Hall. He was in residence at Smuts Hall and therefore knew the route. After cocktails and mingling we all assembled for the official class photograph. That was quite a feat on its own. Everyone was so busy chatting like a group of kindergartners. At the same time everyone wanted the picture on their own digital cameras so there were flashes coming from every direction. Unfortunately the guest speaker, Prof Ardene Forder, was indisposed due to a finger injury. As I recall he was the consummate entertainer as a lecturer. Prof Stuart Saunders was a good substitute and he gave us an informative state of UCT address. The food was good but was only secondary to the social aspect of the evening. We played musical chairs all evening. What a pity that it took 30 years for us to bond as a class. What was missing in those days? We pulled ourselves away just prior to midnight.


1976 reunion Kirstenbosch
1976 reunion Kirstenbosch


Sunday was another beautiful day in Cape Town and what better way to end this glorious weekend than with a buffet lunch at Kirstenbosch. I included my dad once again. We did not do the walk in the gardens but met the group at the restaurant. There were a few tables assigned to our party and there was open seating. People brought their spouses and their kids. We chatted all afternoon and then said our teary goodbyes promising never to lose touch, but were we ever in touch?

I spent 6 years at Medical School but only seemed to foster relationships with my tutorial group and a few other class members. I lived at home with my parents which did not expose me to group living. Days were long and pressured and there was not much time for play. People I met here did party but achieved nonetheless. It might have taken them a bit longer to reach their goals. I for one am certainly a proud member of the Class of 1976 and grateful to the University of Cape Town Medical School for the outstanding education that it afforded me. Spontaneous decisions are often the correct ones and I am so happy that I made the effort to attend this memorable event. I look forward to 2016 when our class will be celebrating 40 years.