13 December - 15 December 2013

By: Jessica McLellan (Trusler)


Michael Austen, Ed Baalbergen, Daryl Bendel, Neville Botha, Farrel Buchinisky, James Butler, Dimitri Caldis, David Chapman, Indra Dhunnoo, Steven Froese, Martin Gad, Jessica Gardner, Braeme Glaun, Mark Gunning, Glen Hagemann, Eric Hodgson, Alan Horn, Karen Hough (Barnes), Debra Houghton, Philip Kaye, Anita Küpper, Andrew Leary, Katherine Lewis, Martin Marshall, Georgina McAdam, David McKechnie, Jessica McLellan (Trusler), Hilda McLoughlin, Ian Midgley, Sibylle Moehl, Karen Moore, Karyn Moshal, Lynne Murfin, Tim Nunn, Paddy O’Connor, Denise Osterloh, Gerald Paris, Paula Penkin, Kim Ragsdale, Craig Ress, Stephen Roche, Michele Rogers, Richard Selkon, Clive Soldin, Jill Te Water Naude, William Toet, Harry Trakoshis, Mark Watt, Grant White, Madeleine van Wiggelinkhuizen (Brink), Dilys Woolley (O’Driscoll), Ann Wright.

This was an amazing experience, completely unexpected, and very different to the movies that I have seen on reunions, where you look around you and see all the people you once knew, compare bellies, hair and wrinkles, sneer and leave. This was just pure fun – catching up with folk you once knew and studied with for 6 years, some whom you knew well, and some only slightly, but just amazing to know that we have all grown up, moved on and are all doing different things and everyone was interested in what everyone else is doing.

Friday started with lunch in the MAC Club, the room above the canteen, being greeted by Joan Tuff who organised it all, together with the organising committee, Michele Rogers, James Butler, Gerald Paris and Dave McKechnie. They gave us enough reading matter to keep us busy, together with a name tag that we all needed as memories fade despite enthusiasm – the picture seems to have been enlarged from our big group photo taken in 1988, so my son keeps raving about how I could still grow my hair and we all look so young.

Thank you for the book and the memories from everyone who could contribute - so special to be able to look through it and find out where everyone is and what they are up to.

We went from there on a tour, led by Professor Laurie Kellaway, who showed us around the medical campus – notable was the fact that the 600 person lecture hall has been subdivided into a number of small lecture theatres and tut rooms, but they are going to have to find space for another large lecture hall as the plan is to expand the number of medical students graduating from all universities as a matter of urgency. There is a dire shortage of doctors and auxillary health workers in South Africa and this has been prioritised.

We walked through hallowed halls, noisily, never hushed, and ended up in the Pathology Learning Centre (anatomy museum) where those same bottles that we studied and peered at before vivas are all still on shelves, albeit in a smarter room. UCT is digitising the entire collection to share with universities less fortunate than ours, to take the whole experience of learning histology, gross anatomy and post mortem identification into the new age, where you can rotate the bottle in front of you, on your computer, and not have to be wary of spilling the formalin or dropping the jar on your lap/foot. Fantastic, the youth of today have it easy!

Then we walked up and around to the old Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), encountering the stern stares of the security, who wouldn’t let us out of the medical school unless we were in a car ... authority in a different form ... where we had the most incredible experience in the Heart Transplant Museum. A museum with a difference, it is run by people who have a passion to share their time with Barnard et al, and anyone who has not been there must take out a couple of hours to walk through and understand the history of our Alma Mater, and can share in the pride of place that UCT has attained through training of great people who have gone all over the world, and returned. Wow.

We returned that evening to a cocktail party with the new Dean of the Medical School, Professor Wim De Villiers, partied until we were thrown out, and then a few of the stalwarts moved on to Barristers in Newlands where we could continue conversations, catch-up and laugh.

The 8am start was a bit of a shocker, (Saturday morning and all), but everyone managed to get there, and the talks were fascinating, and people kept to time! A huge range of topics, a sharing of knowledge and expertise in various fields, specialised topics vs general, comments about snow, emigration and coping in the Canadian outback (David Chapman); drug development (Daryl Bendel) and Gerald Paris mooted teaching practices in Africa. Mark Gunning, always one to find the shortcut, told us how to do transcutaneous aortic valve replacements and Martin Marshall discussed radiofrequency ablation of renal carcinoma (they always were surgeons on the sly), Farrel Buchinsky gave a scintillating talk about recurrent HPV and papillomatosis in the larynx and the genetics, global collaboration on investigation and treatment thereof; whilst Philip Kaye discussed Barrett’s Oesophagus and the transition to oesophageal Carcinoma in the UK experience. James Butler gave an insightful talk on neurology, brain surgery and the importance of quality of life with a memorable case history – that is how we all learnt medicine, around the patient; Eric Hodgson discussed the ethics of end of life care in the ICU, working in rugby medicine and in Durban hospitals; Alan Horn prepared a talk on neonatal hypothermia, but was unable to present it as he was ill – postponed to the next reunion, thanks Alan! Karyn Moshal surprised us with her gorgeous baby girl, and her experience with CHIVA in Africa, whilst being a consultant in Great Ormand Street; Mike Austen told us about the no-fault accident treatment scheme and the law in New Zealand, (also bringing his daughter to show her Cape Town), and not to be outdone, Tim Nunn told us all about medical care in a remote Papuan site, with fabulous pictures in one of the most remote and unspoilt places in the world, and brought his son, who wants to follow in his footsteps and attend UCT medical school soon too! Thanks to all the speakers, next time I am certain more folk will volunteer, it was mind-blowing.

We then had a great lunch in the Foyer of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine (IDM) building, (which is where we used to sit outside the canteen and sun ourselves before biochemistry lectures), and again had to be thrown out to go home and change to return to the Main Campus for a photo session and sumptuous banquet at Smuts Hall that evening. The weather could not have been better, not a breath of wind, the mountains in front, Jammie Hall behind, and everyone looking smart in the summer sun – a fabulous evening had by all, so many friends to catch up with, and although our class seems to have suffered the diaspora and has spread throughout the globe, the time spent apart seems so fast, and although so much has changed, so the bond of studying at UCT has brought us back, closer, more grown up and more able to laugh at ourselves and enjoy seeing the success of others. Seeing friends again is just so very special, and we have so little time to do so – what a treat, and thanks again to all who organised this reunion.

The fabulous weekend was rounded off by some with a very detailed and enthusiastic botanical guided walk around Kirstenbosch Gardens – the knowledgeable guide testing everyone’s Latin and botanical concentration levels to the limit! Then these enthusiastic early birds were joined by a few dozen more (and many of the accompanying wives and children) where we sat on a beautiful piece of lawn in sun and shade to enjoy more stories, more catch up and more nostalgia before sad good byes. The picnic hampers were superb and the company better! It was so nice being able to meet some of the wives and children/young adults and share with them too.

We want to do this again, there were so many people who didn’t come, perhaps thinking that it would be too difficult or strange, but we must see and strengthen those ties, to allow others to see what a privilege we had studying there, and ensure others can do the same. We will meet again, come and join us all there, perhaps in 10 years, quick before you change your mind – we will ask Joan if she can set up the motions for a repeat performance!

Look at the picture of all of us there, no-one has really changed that much, and yet we have all learnt so much. When we left varsity, the times were changing, and now we are in a new era in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was still on Robben Island, now he has ensured the peaceful transformation of our country, and we have nearly completed 20 years after 1994 and the first free and fair elections, and we have had to bid him farewell – see his picture on the Jameson Hall, to remind us forever of a statesman who changed our nation.