Reunions held in 2007: Class of 1982

Date: 14 - 16 December 2007

By Kathy Taylor

1982 class photo

Avril Beckford, Dennis Bosman, Ian Bourhill, Jannice Bowler, Philip Cilliers, Tanya Donaldson, Susan Dowdle, Mario Ehlers, Sibylla Eickhoff, Janette Evans, Johannes Fagan, Bruce Fleming, Alister Frayne, Janice Graham, Nathan Hasson, Ingrid Kaue-Prinzing, Geoffrey Kaye, Penny Keene, Dave Kibel, Karin Laudin, Beryl Leibbrandt, Wendy MacLeod, David McCabe, Robert McCully, Peter Methven, Derek Miller, Stephen Milne, Philip Nel, Charles Newton, Ian Orpen, Micky Schneider-Waterberg, Andy Parrish, Elaine Peddie, Michael Pepper, Rob Piemontesi, Ian Proudfoot, Gillian Reay, Lawrence Rowley, Richard Simpson, Steve Soule, Wendy Spearman, Chantal Stewart, Katherine Stoner, Kathryn Taylor, André van den Berg, Linda van der Westhuizen, Jimmy Volmink, Charles Webb, Brian Wood, Ekkehard Zöllner.

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

I was very excited and a little apprehensive about this first reunion in 25 years! We'd shared 6 years and then dispersed all over the world. Would I remember their names? Would they be recognisable? As everyone arrived for registration the fun began. Most people I remembered instantly, and most were remarkably unaffected by the years, apart from a bit of grey hair. It turned out to be the most wonderful, memorable, fun-filled and nostalgic weekend. There was much hugging, shrieking, laughing and talking as we spotted each other and started catching up.

After registration we went on a tour of the UCT academic hospital and viewed the new equipment in the trauma unit, and then there was a walk through the new Groote Schuur Hospital. Many of our classmates had never been in this hospital, as building only started the year we did our internship, so it was interesting for them to see how much things had changed. Lunch was in the Tafelberg Room, Groote Schuur Hospital, where we were served a delicious meal and spent a great time of camaraderie together.

The cocktail party in the evening was another great chance to get together and a few of our much-loved and respected lecturers from way back were there to meet us. It was wonderful to see them again. Professor Solly Benatar spoke to us about the changes made over the last 25 years, reminded us of the many challenges still facing medicine in South Africa, and encouraged the alumni to get involved. He also reminded us of the great number of our class he failed in 5th year!!.

The partying continued late into the night for many, so I was impressed to see the good attendance at the academic meeting the next morning. There were some fascinating topics for the meeting, providing some insight into the diverse career paths chosen.

Mike Pepper, who works in molecular medicine, has returned to South Africa after many years in Geneva. He started us off with some fascinating insights into the genetics of obesity. It's great to know that this level of research is going on in South Africa.

Avril Beckford, as vivacious and glamorous as we remember, talked to us about raising resilient children. Avril has written a book on the subject, which I wish I'd read a few years back. She is a paediatrician in Atlanta.

Ian Bourhill, a plastic surgeon, working in New York, showed us the wonders of breast reconstruction, and the amazing outcomes the patients have.

Johan Fagan brought home the realities of working in Africa, providing us with fascinating and, at the same time, horrifying statistics about the lack of availability of ENT assessment and surgery in many parts of Africa. It is inspiring the work the UCT ENT department is doing in Africa, but it seems an overwhelming problem, and a real eye-opener to those working in the first world.

Ingrid Kaue-Prinzing, who was in our class in 1st and 2nd year only, joined our reunion with her family which was wonderful. Ingrid works in forensic medicine in Germany and told us some amazing stories of drunk drivers.

Philip Nel, is a general surgeon, now working in Canada, but still farming olives in South Africa. He is a fount of knowledge about olives and had us all eating olives for the rest of the weekend. I only buy extra-virgin olive oil now after learning of all its magical health benefits.

Ian Orpen, working as a GP for the NHS in the UK, had us in fits of laughter from the start. It sounds like he has a very well run practice there. The topic of his talk was "overpaid and underworked" but he says no way is that true! But he wouldn't tell us what he earns!

Micky Orrey (Schneider-Waterberg), a dermatologist in Cape Town, talked to us about novel perspectives in anti aging. These ideas have certainly worked for Micky. Some others of us need to make some changes in life style.

Charles Newton is a paediatric neurologist working in Kenya and has an interest in cerebral malaria. He gave us some fascinating insights into the subject, and also reminded us of the challenges that face doctors working in Africa.

Steve Soule, now in New Zealand, is an endocrinologist. He amused us immensely by linking various classmates to various endocrine abnormalities. Great fun, but I am not sure how many friends he had left at the end of the lecture! He showed us some real prize pictures of folks back in medical school days.

Jimmy Volmink delighted us with his talk about illusions of certainty in medicine, a very thought provoking insight. He is working in clinical epidemiology at Stellenbosch University.

We ended off with Ekkehard Zöllner, who reminded us that it was his lot in life to always be last having a surname beginning with "Z". He is a paediatric endocrinologist and provided us with some really interesting insights into treatment of children with inhaled steroids.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the talks - thanks to all who put in so much effort.

After the talks some of us went off on a boat trip to Robben Island. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Perfect sunshine and perfectly still sea - thank goodness no sea sickness! The tour was interesting and also heartbreaking to see what horrors happened on our doorstep for so many years.

Dinner was at Smuts Hall, which is still such a grand building, gleamingly polished for the occasion. The classmates were dressed to kill and the food was superb again. UCT did a really fantastic job with the food at this reunion (thanks to those involved). Another great occasion to chat and laugh. Ian Proudfoot did marvelously as the master of ceremonies. Prof Forder entertained us with tales of his trip to the Himalayas. Sounded like a wonderful trip, and he has a lot of advice to give if you're ever contemplating such a trip.

On Sunday a walk from Cecelia forest with "Johan Fagan" and a guided tour of Kirstenbosch were planned. The weather had other plans and, when we woke up in the morning, it was pouring with rain. This put an end to the guided tour, but a few brave people turned up for Johan's walk. Johan was not one of them! All four of us set out, and we met up with a few others along the way. By this stage there was no rain at all and we had a wonderful walk through the forest. The only problem is that, with Johan not being there, we had to rely on Steve Milne's navigation! Don't let that happen to any of you! Instead of a nice gentle flat walk, we ended up half way up the mountain! But eventually, exhausted and sweaty, we made it to Kirstenbosch in time for lunch. Lunch was another special get together and there was furious flashing of cameras, everyone trying to get off as many pictures as possible before the reunion ended.

Unfortunately the weekend had to end. It had been a very special time together and I think truly memorable for everyone that attended. I got to know some great people I didn't really know well back in med school. We laughed at good and bad memories and relived events long forgotten (well you had hoped they'd been forgotten)!

Thanks so much to all of you who came, especially those that came from afar. The Canadian contingent came in force! Others came from the USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, Germany and other parts of SA. Without you all there it wouldn't have been the success it was.

Thank you also to UCT for hosting the reunion. We felt proud to be a part of such a great institution.

And an extra big thank you to Joan Tuff for making it all happen. Joan played a very large part in the organisation and success of this reunion.

If you are still around for the 40th make sure you are there. An event not to be missed!