Reunion roundup

Reunions held in 2013: Class of 1973 reunion

29 November - 1 December 2013

By: Ann Moore


Margie Anderson (Stanford), Alan Atherstone, Brian Berelowitz, Louise Berkowicz, Peter Berning, David Camero n, Bruce Cloete, Patrick Coghlan, John Cowlin, Charles Croft, Thakor Dayaram, George Dommisse, Mike Du Toit, Rob Dyer, Andrew Floyd, Saville Furman, Vic Gardiner, Alec Goldin, David Gordon, Lennox Gregorowski, Craig Househam, Martin Jaffe, Ismail Jakoet, Trevor Kaye, Gordon Lennox, Selig Leyser, Mike Madden, Ian Mc Callum, Alan McDonald, Seymour Maze, Angus MacLennan, Sashikant Manga, Madeleine Mercer, Lance Michell, Leonard Miller, Alex Moll, Ann Moore (Hofmeyr), Nisar Moosa, Indiran Naiker, John Odell, Jacques Olivier, Guy Parr, Peter Patton, Simon Ritchken, Malcolm Sandler, Hilton Shapiro, Maurice Slevin, Colin Sparg, Dave Stern, Charles Swanepoel, Joan van den Ende, Brent van der Westhuysen, Hugh Wegner, Chris Winearls, Jeffrey Wollach.

The Cape graced us with lovely weather for the reunion, held on the last weekend of November 2013. Forty-nine alumni (plus some partners) attended the lunch at the MAC Club at medical school. Our nametags bore photos of us taken as students. This caused much hilarity to see who had lost the most hair, but also helped in remembering colleagues whom we had not seen in many years. After lunch, we had a tour of medical school, hearing about the new problem-based learning approach used with current medical students and a tour of the new Pathology Learning Centre. We then all trudged up the hill in the proverbial South Easter to tour the Heart of Cape Town Museum in Groote Schuur Hospital. There was much reminiscing about student days. Some alumni tried to convince security staff to let them use the staff entrance, seeing that they were past employees!

Evening cocktails were held in the foyer of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine building, and it was quite an effort to quieten the animated conversations of classmates, catching up the news of years, to allow the Dean to give his welcome speech.

The academic morning on Saturday was a highlight of the weekend, being full and varied. Alan McDonald chaired the first session and it started with Pete Berning's account of his trip to the South Pole. Dave Cameron spoke on the PMTCT programme in Baghdad City (in Gauteng!). Flossie Floyd, in his inimitable way, claimed to have left his talk behind and instead regaled us with crazy stories of student and early doctor days. Saville Furman spoke on ?Making Mistakes' and Ian McCallum on a ?Wild Psychology'. The session ended with John Odell talking on aspirins, throat swabs from chickens and guinea pigs. After tea, Indiran Naiker chaired the second session. Jacques Olivier presented an artistic talk on necroradiology; Rob Dyer gave a moving talk on ?From the heart' with several thought-provoking quotes (?The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade, a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head'). Chris Winearls recounted how he put Erythropoietin on the map and Alec Goldin told of how he was presented with the prize bull of the Ciskei in 1985 and became personal physician to Lennox Sebe. John Cowlin talked about his move into the wine-making industry and Alan McDonald wrapped up the morning recounting the speech given by Prof John Brock at our graduation. Many talks were reflections on life and lessons learnt along the way, and as speakers opened up their hearts to share, it gave opportunity for us all to share on a deeper and more meaningful level.

Dinner at Smuts Hall in the evening was a fun-filled affair with Charles Swanepoel as MC and a record attendance of 86 (of which 51 were alumni). We missed Bosie, our class rep, who was unable to make the reunion. Charles took it upon himself to award some prizes. In consultation with others (loosely called "the committee") the following were the winners. The one for the person who had travelled furthest was awarded to Alexander Moll (from Mill Bay, BC, Canada). In order not to embarrass anyone, the prize for the one who had changed the most went to Pete Berning, who must have had life changing moments on his travels to the North and South Poles. Vic Gardener was chosen as having changed the least because he was still driving the same car he had in 6th year! The prize for the one who changed the least amongst the girls, went to Madeleine Mercer, but in her absence at the dinner, the runner up was Ann Moore. The general consensus was that the girls had weathered better than the boys! John Cowlin, who changed from medicine to wine making, was given a prize to remind him of the "poor" medical students and the cost of wine. John was not impressed with his prize - a bottle of Tassies!

On Sunday, about 24 enjoyed a mountain walk led by Ann Moore, followed by a tour of Kirstenbosch and then a lazy, delicious picnic lunch under the trees.

Class members came from all over the globe, the furthest being from British Columbia, Canada. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and the programme ran like clockwork, thanks to the efficient organisation of Joan Tuff of the alumni office - thank you, Joan! Many felt that the next reunion should be in 5 rather than 10 year's time so watch this space!

Reflections on the 40th Anniversary of the Class of 1973

Christopher Winearls MBChB (Cape Town)
Consultant Nephrologist Oxford University Hospitals, England

At the end of 1973 we had grabbed the pass lists from the hands of the UCT administrative assistant, had had heady celebrations, graduated and dispersed from our comfortable nursery to the real world. Apartheid was in its pomp, Nelson Mandela had seventeen more years of his long wait for freedom and AIDS was still 8 years away.

We were invited back for the forty year reunion. Some of us were retired and others were close. It seemed a long way to travel for a sentimental weekend, extravagant of carbon with a risk of awkward attempts to rekindle friendships that distance and time had withered.

It was remarkable that about a third of the class gathered in November 2013 in a Cape Town and Medical School that were both so changed and unchanged. We had practised through an astonishing era. Since graduating we had been given the fruits of innovation and research: investigations: RIAs, CT scanners, echocardiography, flexible endoscopy; MRI PET scans; techniques: IVF, laparoscopy, angioplasty: additions to the pharmacopoeia (ACEIs, thrombolytics, statins, monoclonal antibodies, H2 antagonists, PPIs, anti-virals. growth factors, erythropoietin, artemisenin). Immunology was unwrapped - T-cell receptors and the function of the HLA molecules were discovered. Transplantation evolved from dangerous experiment to orthodox treatment. The inner workings of the cell were dissected. Molecular genetics and diagnostics became routine. The causes of Jakob-Creutzfeld disease, Legionnaires disease, "non-A non-B hepatitis" (NANB), "peptic ulcers", Lyme disease, Whipple's disease, antibiotic enterocolitis and AIDS were identified. Palliative care was conceived. Hospices were created and TB sanatoria closed.

When we met on the Friday we crossed the decades with ease, discovering what we each had done with our privilege of being students of this medical school. We shared in the pride at what our peers had done, described with humility and self-deprecatory humour. The special moment was the description of Day 1 as a doctor by a now distinguished surgeon, having difficulty in inserting a chest drain in the Bulawayo Casualty, the Charge Nurse eventually advising, "The other doctors, they make a cut..."

But most of all there was pride in the UCT Medical School and acknowledgement of the professional foundation it laid for us. We were taught the essentials of "clinical method" and that to be a good doctor you had to be a decent and compassionate citizen. This teaching and the role models were provided by great men and women of UCT medicine. It seemed to us that they considered training us their next most important function. We can recite a roll of honour including from 2nd year to 6th: Wells and Wilson; Sloan and Isaacson; Kipps and Forder; Thompson, Selzer, Uys and Rose; Sapeika; Kench; Smith; Gillis; Davey, Craig, Michael and Baillie; Brock, Saunders, Jackson, Eales, Kirsch, Dowdle, Ames, Brown, Ferguson, Thatcher, Jacobs; Epstein, Bank, Meyers and Keeton; Louw, Lewer-Allen, Terblanche, de Villiers, Immelman and Dent; Heese and Leary.

We went back to the Path museum to see the pots, visited the shrine to Chris Barnard, dined at Smuts and walked in Kirstenbosch before flying back to our present worlds.

For me, and I suspect many others, it was a moving pilgrimage of gratitude.