Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2010: Class of 1970 reunion

1970 class photo

Helga Antonissen, Aafke Bakker, Chris Barker, Phil Barnard, Eric Bateman, Tony Bull, Carl Burgess, Peter Cheverton, Hanlon Chiddy, Tony Clarke, Ronald Cohen, Ian Craib, Rhidian Dalrympl e, Clive Daniel, Paul Duminy, Dudley Duncan, Roland Eastman, Michael Ezekowitz, Mervyn Griffiths, David Heilbrunn, Jonathan Horwitz, Wilbert Hurlow, Sue Jessop, Michael Jonker, Sidney Kahn, Bryan Kalil, Cal Lutrin, Peter Macdonald, Michael Mamacos, Richard Maske, Aubrey Maze, Mervyn Maze, Julien Nel, Shirley Norval, Dave Pollock, James Rawlings, Brian Roberts, Neil Robinson, Elgar Rogaly, Ray Rogers, Raphael Sapeika, Rob Sladen, Mary Stewart, Yngve Strandvok, Neil Sutherland, Johan Theron, Gwynne Thomas, Derek van den Berg, Chris van Wyk, Johan Walters, Lesley Wormald.

The medical class of 1970 held its 40th reunion from 26 - 28 November 2010. Colleagues came from all parts of South Africa and the world, and it was with some trepidation that I approached this event. But what a special group of people they still are. I needn't have worried. Nothing has changed, other than the passage of time. And, naturally, we are now wiser and more mellow than in our young days. The sense of camaraderie was extraordinary.

We started the weekend prematurely on Thursday 25th, with a sunset cruise from the Waterfront's Quay 4 to Clifton's 4th beach. Forty-three of us braved the howling south-easter and choppy seas, and most proved their sea-worthiness beyond doubt. Unfortunately the same could not be said of yours truly, who demonstrated in graphic detail the symptoms and signs of sea-sickness. Rob Sladen and David Heilbrunn did much sympathetic muttering and back patting, and Mary Stewart's husband, Kevin Mattholie, rushed up and down the precipitous steps with ice and water. Everyone else on board enjoyed the trip and agreed that it served as a good "ice-breaker".

Friday 26th

Eric, Roland and Helga conducted a tour of the medical school campus, including the old anatomy and physiology buildings and the student learning centre.

Dr Laurie Kellaway, who heads the department of Human Biology at Medical School, and teaches undergraduate physiology, gave a most informative talk on the current learning facilities, and plans for future development of the medical school. He pointed out that the current facilities have reached full capacity, and that various options for expansion are being investigated.

From the medical campus we crossed the Anzio Road bridge to Groote Schuur Hospital, where we visited the D24 cardio-thoracic ward. Plans to visit other areas in the hospital had to be shelved due to lack of time. A guided tour of "The Heart of Cape Town Museum" followed. This was most interesting and relevant, as we were 3rd year medical students at the time of the world's first heart transplant in 1967. Equally poignant was the fact that our very own Hanlon Chiddy had a heart transplant in 2004 (in Australia). He found it a particularly moving experience.

Formal registration for the reunion took place at the cocktail party on Friday evening. This event was held at The Institute for Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. This round glass building, a new and ultra-modern addition to the campus, was designed by well-known architect and yachtsman, Gawie Fagan, and completed in 2005.

The Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty, Prof Marian Jacobs, welcomed us, and assured us of the good health in which the faculty finds itself. She encouraged alumni to give of their time and resources, and to contribute to their alma mater in any way possible. Several class mates have already taken up this challenge.

Saturday 27th dawned bright and early for those attending the academic meeting. Most of the speakers stuck to the mandate of not being too technical.

Hanlon Chiddy gave a most remarkable exposition of his battle with refractory cardiac failure following a myocardial infarct, which eventually culminated in heart transplantation. His talk was humorous, sobering, and very personal. The praise given to his wife, Robbie, who was an incredible support and driving force in his survival, was touching to say the least. The talk was way over the allotted 15 minutes - but nobody minded.

Sue Jessop's account of life after retirement was inspirational. She illustrated how new and exciting challenges can make the prospect of stopping work most attractive. Instead of slumping into an inactive life of boredom, she and her husband are putting all their energies into their new home in a fynbos reserve, where they truly commune with nature in all its joys and harsh realities. Not for the faint-hearted!

David Heilbrunn's talk on the importance of relationships, especially in childhood, was well received. David is director of outpatient psychiatry in White Rock, Canada, and therefore well qualified to speak on this subject.

The following three talks were by our USA colleagues:

Rob Sladen spoke eloquently about life in the Big Apple. Rob has been Professor of Critical Care Anaesthesiology at Columbia University since 1997. He gave an entertaining speech on his professional life, and at the same time provided glimpses of domestic life with Maureen and his daughters.

Aubrey and Mervyn Maze gave insights into the practice of anaesthesia in the United States. Aubrey lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where he has been a paediatric anaesthetist for many years, and is currently CEO of an Anaesthetic Consultancy. Younger brother, Mervyn, holds the Chair of Anaesthesia and Peri-operative Care at the University of California in San Francisco, and is an award-winning researcher.

Michael Ezekowitz is a cardiologist in Philadelphia, whose current focus of research is on experimental anticoagulant drugs that may provide an important new option for patients on Warfarin. He gave a fascinating account of research he has done in this field.

After the tea-break, Helga Antonissen addressed the issue of the apartheid injustices suffered by our "black" classmates during our university years. Not only were blacks largely excluded from training opportunities, but, for those gaining access to medical school, the conditions under which they trained were extremely onerous, and lacked the educational, recreational, accommodation and social opportunities afforded their white fellow students. Discussion after the presentation gave rise to diverse opinions as to how to redress the apparent indifference of us as white students at the time. An endorsement of the Health Sciences Faculty Charter, adopted in 2002, was circulated, to be signed by all those who felt the need to do so. There was an overwhelmingly positive response as witnessed by the many signatories. A copy of the charter and signatures are attached to this report.

Eric Bateman and Richard Maske both entitled their talks "then and now". Eric had to contend with non-functioning audio-visual equipment, but, in true professorial manner, produced an excellent talk. Who needs all these aids to giving a stimulating lecture?!

Richard's presentation was light-hearted and amusing, with some really funny cartoons and anecdotes from our years at medical school.

Tony Clarke got a raw deal by being the last speaker of the morning, and having to contend with ongoing audiovisual dysfunction! Tony, being a gastroenterologist in Canberra, was able to contend admirably with this dyspepsia-inducing anomaly, and gave us an interesting account of medical facilities and the medical insurance system in Australia.

The academic meeting was interesting and diverse. It was also noteworthy that the "back-rowers" from 1965-70 still occupied those same back rows this time round - they know who they are! They did, however, show touching support for Helga by moving to the front row during her talk.

The gala dinner on Saturday evening took place in the grandeur of the Smuts Dining Hall. The live music unfortunately suffered from the poor acoustics. The catering, however, was excellent, with a buffet provided by the Baxter Theatre Restaurant. It was a convivial evening spent in the company of guest speaker, Prof Stuart Saunders, and ably MC'ed by Rob Sladen. Even Elgar Rogaly, better known for his reserved and serious nature, got up on stage to tell jokes.

The class photo was taken in the Smuts Hall courtyard in the drizzling rain, which accounts for some of us looking rather bedraggled!

Sunday 28th saw us at Simon's Restaurant, Groot Constantia, for a lunch braai. There was an excellent turnout in sunny weather. Richard Maske presented Joan Tuff of the alumni office with a bunch of flowers and a sincere thank you for all her efficient and hard work over the preceding year. Sadly, this was our last get-together, but promises were made to meet again in 5 years' time. Hopefully this will come to fruition. If not, a 50th reunion will be held in 2020.

Thanks go not only to Joan Tuff for a truly fantastic reunion, but also to Eric, Richard and Roland of the organizing committee. They also skillfully, and not so subtly, shifted the responsibility of writing this report onto my shoulders! Thanks, guys, for all your input and positive vibes, and for the fun we had in organizing this event. And thanks to all the attendees - you were the real stars of the show!

Helga Antonissen
January 2011


Class of 1970 132 of whom 19 were female
Attendees at 40th reunion 51 of whom 6 were female
Deceased classmates 9