Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2011: Class of 1986 reunion

9 - 11 December 2011

By: Linda-Gail Bekker


Johann Ahrens, Richard Alexander, Peter-Brian Andersson, Linda-Gail Bekker, Jack Bergman, Neil B erlinski, Jeanne Borstlap, Dave Bowen, Chris Butler, Charles Cannan, Theresa Carroll, Belinda Cohen, Fiona Coleman, David Dennis, Andrew Dottridge, Michael Dreyer, Bruce Duncan, Gavin Durra, Annie Edwards, Graham Fieggen, Elspeth Fotheringham, Chris Gebers, Russel Giger, Arthur Goldsmith, Kim Naruns ky, Trevor Gray, Helen Hall, Tony Hawkridge, Susan Hegarty, Nick Hummel, Mandy Inglis, Andrew Ivey, Vivien Jandera, Greg Kew, Barbara Laughton, Denis Levy, Nicholas Maartens, Pradeep Makan, Juanita Makan, Reinhard Mauermann, Mike Mesham, Pren Naidoo, Anthony O'Driscoll, William Osler, Jonathan Pons, Stephen Purcell, Anne Smith, Michael Solomon, Brett Starck, Tim Stewart, David Stickells, Nardia Strydom, Michael Suddens, Kendrew Suttle, Andy Thomas, Andy Thomson, Greg Torr, Linda Whitelock-Jones, Louise Wigens, Karen Young.

Academic Meeting Programme:

Should Shrien Dewani Stay Put? - Linda-Gail Bekker
Unhelpful Variation in Health Care Delivery - Chris Butler
Working in the UK Healthcare System - Bruce Duncan
Teaching Medical Students in a Graduate Entry Medical Programme in Sydney, Australia - Elspeth Fotheringham
On the Path of an Enhanced Recovery - Arthur Goldsmith
Australian Health Care System / Aboriginal Health - Nick Hummel
Ten Golden Rules in a Mission Hospital - Jonathan Pons
Hip Surgery Over the Past 40 Years - Michael Solomon
Ophthalmology - The Queen of Specialities - Hindsight, Foresight and Insights - Kendrew Suttle
Burn Care in South Africa - Linda Whitelock-Jones
Cushing's Disease: The Story Behind an Eponym - Niki Maartens
Myocardial Infarction - We've come a long Way - Charles Cannon

It really is surreal: 25 years have gone by in a flash in so many ways, but also represent so much in all of the lives of the individuals that made up the class of 1986.

This photograph taken on Saturday evening 10 December 2011, represents those who were fortunate enough to be able to make the trek of a few suburbs or indeed a few oceans to get together for the Class of 1986 reunion. I, for one approached this weekend with some trepidation... having never been to any sort of reunion before, I just wasn't sure how things would pan out - would everyone stand around awkwardly? Would no one be recognizable? Would we all have moved on in our lives so much as to be worlds apart?

Not so, at all!! From the very first lunch at the Mac Club on Friday afternoon, it was apparent that people would simply pick up (as if we had all been to a Benatar lecture in the GSH Falconer lecture theatre just the week before) and simply would NOT stop talking, catching up, remembering for the rest of the weekend.

I can truly say - and I do hope I speak for everyone who came - that it was a superb experience! A medical class is something one cannot help bonding to in some way - by definition we share too many good, bad, excruciating and memorable moments together over 6 years not to feel some sort of link among the members. I challenge even the most hardened among us to deny this!!

This report will try to give an account of the activities of the reunion weekend but cannot capture the myriad of emotions, memories and nostalgia that the weekend generated.

Joan Tuff and her office runs a very effective, well oiled machine - in fact, those of us in the committee really only felt that we needed to turn up more or less on time and welcome those who had travelled from afar and hadn't been on campus for a long time. The committee of Karen Young, Graham Fieggen, Tony Hawkridge and Linda-Gail Bekker enjoyed a number of meetings huddled in Joan's tiny office near the MAC club to sort out some of the minor details during 2011 but it is clear the reunion machine works well.

As mentioned, the weekend kicked off to a welcome lunch at the MAC Club (this is above the "new" student cafeteria in the Barnard Fuller Building on med school campus), where in fact everyone was recognizable (!) despite the odd head of greyer hair - (it felt a bit like one of these computer soft wear packages where one can get a peak of what one might look like in 25 years!) This was followed by a nostalgic "walk through the years" - starting with Second year at the Anat-path building and dissection room, past 3rd year building - physiology with references to Johan Koeslag and Prof Belonje, and microbiology and happy memories of Prof Forder. We had a look in the old mortuary at the beautiful new surgical pathology unit. From there we trekked up the hill to the old GSH building, through the E Floor of the new GSH, to the old Falconer Lecture theatre where we were reminded of many dress up parties, Jammie step races and events that occurred from 1981-1986 in a class photos slide presentation. Thanks to everyone who dug out their photo albums and sent us pictures for this. The old GSH now has a heart museum, which honours the first heart transplant performed by Chris Barnard and those of us who still had stamina stayed on to take a look at this. Kudos to Jack Bergman who brought his wife and 2 children from Oz and they all 4 participated fully in every activity including a walk around the dissection room!

Friday night was cocktail hour - hosted by the Health Science Faculty and held in the rather unusual main mixing area of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. This new circular glass building serves as a mixing space for medical scientists based in the 2 wings of the Werner Beit Buildings and was very much the vision of Prof. Gevers - and we will all remember medical biochemistry with him! Prof Gevers got the IIDMM going in his last years as Senior Vice-Chancellor and it has become a national resource for TB/HIV/Genetic and Molecular sciences. Thanks to Colin Cook, head of ophthalmology who hosted on behalf of Dean Marian Jacobs - Colin featured later again in Jono Pons' talk.

Saturday morning started bright and early (perhaps too early for some) with coffee, muffins and a full lecture programme. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of the range of interests, career moves and decisions that our class members have made. Some awe-inspiring - Kendrew's very graphic visual account of eye surgery in the last 25 years, Elspeth's introduction to very novel ways that medical students are taught in Australia, Linda Whitelock-Jones' efforts to bring compassionate burns care to some of the disadvantaged hospitals on the East Coast of South Africa just some of the highlights from that morning. A poignant and inspiring story from Jono Pons on how he has introduced eye care into Swaziland and the extraordinary task shifting and capacity building that has gone into this was further illustration of the depth and breadth of medical directions our class has made. Mike Solomon invited us all to the next reunion in Sydney, where presumably we could also book our hip replacements. Mike Solomon gave us a historic perspective of hip surgery over the last 40 years and Niki Maartens similarly gave us a historical look behind the Eponym: Cushings Disease. Bruce Duncan introduced us to anaesthesiology in the UK by retracing his steps since graduation. Thanks to Charles Cannan for reminding us what options there are for Ischaemic heart patients and Arthur Goldsmith for the low down on enhanced recovery systems in the UK and certainly not least: Chris Butler illustrated the power of meta-analysis and systematic review in assessing health care delivery and illustrated this with his own practice in the UK. Jono Pons was unanimously voted as most inspiring lecturer at our dinner on Saturday evening - well done Jono!

Lunch followed in the IIDMM - for those who haven't been there - it has magnificent views of Devils peak and often wildebeest and Quaggas are seen on the slopes from its circular windows.

Afternoon was free although many impromptu gatherings were organized around Cape Town- including a promise from the energetic to meet up for a run on the Sea Point Promenade at "sparrows" the next morning. Saturday evening had everyone gathering together with partners and children at Smuts Hall at 7 pm in their glad rags for the class reunion photo (shown here). There had been a unanimous request to have Arderne Forder as our guest speaker and Chris Butler as our master of ceremonies for the evening. Both did a terrific job. Chris reminded us of classmates who weren't present for reasons beyond their control but importantly we were able to raise our glasses and remember those of our classmates who have sadly, in the last 25 years, passed on.

Arderne, living up to all expectations, gave an entertaining series of stories about famous people who had been "plagued" by microbes or afflictions. Truly as we had remembered him - infinitely knowledgeable and passionate about microbes!

Sunday dawned wet and rather dreary despite mid December, but the Sunday hikers and Picnic-ers refused to be daunted. We were rewarded when, by noon, Kirstenbosch Gardens not only dried out but also was characteristically enchanting. It was a great way to draw the weekend to a close. My overwhelming sense was that EVERYONE could have chatted for days more...

It remains only to say thanks again to Joan and Team and to all who brought family and those who came from afar - all who shared their stories and some of themselves. We were enriched. Hamba Kakhule and until next time - !