“It helped, for one thing, to be stubborn,” Velma Scantlebury’81 allows. The photographs of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman that grace the wall of her office at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where she is professor of surgery and director of transplantation, epitomize the kind of stubbornness she means. Her smile is serene. Her hands, once deemed “too small for a surgeon,” have cut and stitched their way through more than 200 living donor kidney transplants and more than 800 cadaveric donor transplants in children and adults, as well as myriad other complicated organ transplants.
Velma Scantlebury: Kidneys are Colorblind
An African-American Woman Transplant Pioneer
By Peter Wortsman
“Small hands can be better than big hands in surgery, especially when you’re working on kids.” She learned that from extensive experience in pediatric transplantation. Dr. Scantlebury, the first and for many years the only African-American woman transplant surgeon in the country, graciously agreed to look back on her career.
Undaunted by Early Educational Hurdles
The untimely death of an older sister first sparked her desire to become a doctor. A native of Barbados, she came to the United States as a child and settled in Brooklyn, where her parents believed she would have a better educational opportunity to pursue her dream. But unexpected hurdles stood in the way.
“High school was terrible,” Dr. Scantlebury recalls. “My potential did not come forth, and I was viewed as a quiet nerd.” And when she sought advice for college applications, a high school guidance counselor bluntly told her to forget about higher education and get a job at a hospital instead. Sticking to her guns, she applied and was accepted to Barnard College, with an offer of a one-year scholarship. Concerned by the financial burden for her family, she ultimately decided to attend the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, which offered her a complete four-year scholarship. And though she made Dean’s List with honors and thrived academically at LIU, one of her professors, no doubt disappointed that his hand-picked favorites hadn’t made the grade, merely shrugged upon learning of her acceptance to Yale Medical School and P&S. The only reason she got into medical school, one of her college mates suggested, was “because they needed a token black.”
Surgery, Love at First Cut: From P&S to Harlem Hospital
At P&S, she welcomed the camaraderie of fellow students in the Black and Latino Student Organization and the support of Dr. Margaret Haynes, then director of the minority student office. And from the start of her first-year gross anatomy class at P&S, she knew she wanted to become a surgeon. “While everybody else seemed eager to get out of the anatomy classroom, because of the smell, I was fascinated,” she recalls, “by all the connections... the nerves and muscles and circulatory system. ... It was a really big turn-on for me to go from body to body and study the different functions and abnormalities.”
In her senior year, she participated in research and co-authored a scientific paper on endoscopic polypectomy with Kenneth Forde’59, who, as an African-American and fellow native of Barbados, was a powerful role model. But to her great dismay, other members of the surgical faculty discouraged her from pursuing surgery, her preceptor going so far as to withhold his recommendation. He offered, instead, to recommend her for pediatric training.
Part of her problem, she believes, as a woman of color discouraged from asserting herself, was that she lacked the aggressive manner needed to get ahead: “I grew up not talking a lot. I was always the one in the corner reading the book. But I had to force myself to be aggressive. This timid, quiet person was really working to my detriment.” She observed the forthright behavior of some other medical students, especially in the interview process for residencies. “You had to show off, ask questions, and that was very difficult for me.”
Despite the discouragement, she once again held her ground: “Well, I’m going to do this. I’m going to apply and I’m going to get in. Because they said I couldn’t!” She ultimately went on to complete an internship and residency in general surgery at Harlem Hospital, where doors began to open.
There, for the first time, she found a woman surgeon to emulate, a true mentor in Dr. Barbara Barlow, then director of pediatric surgery: “She was very encouraging. She led me, taught me, gave me advice, groomed me, and told me I needed to do research, and then she made the opportunity for me to spend time in transplantation surgery under Dr. Mark Hardy.” Dr. Scantlebury spent six months in the lab with Dr. Hardy, assisting him in his research on renal flow experiments of kidney transplantation in animal models. And though at the time she viewed this research primarily as a prerequisite for a career in pediatric surgery, it would prove to be a propitious experience.
Transplantation in Pittsburgh
Dr. Mark Ravitch, then director of the pediatric surgery program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she applied for fellowship training, advised her that additional research background would improve her chances of admittance to the highly competitive program and recommended she pursue her interest in transplantation at Pittsburgh under the legendary transplant surgeon, Dr. Thomas E. Starzl. Dr. Starzl interviewed and promptly admitted her for training. Her intense and challenging two-year fellowship in transplantation, from 1986 to 1988, set her on the path of her life’s work.
“There was such a need for clinical fellows to take care of transplant patients back then,” she recalls, “that we never even had time to set foot in the lab.” And, after the first year, she realized, “Well, I’ve got another year to do and then perhaps two more years of pediatric surgery. I was inspired by all aspects of transplantation surgery, especially the ability to perform pediatric transplantation. And so I decided to stay with transplantation full time.”
Most of the other fellows found it too emotionally draining to transplant children, because of the high mortality rate at the time, and she, too, found it tough but she embraced the surgical and emotional challenge.
“I Don’t Like Being Bored”
Once lovingly confronted by her mother, who suggested that she always appeared to pursue the most difficult tasks, Dr. Scantlebury conceded a fondness for challenges: “Maybe I chose to always be up against another hurdle, maybe that’s what makes me thrive. I don’t like being bored.
“It really was the boot camp of fellowships,” she says of her training in Pittsburgh. Dr. Starzl held his fellows to the same high standard to which he held himself and offered few compliments: “No matter how much you busted your chops in the OR, there was always something that could have been done better.” The fellows were expected to participate in the entire process, from harvesting the organs to conferring with the families, whatever the outcome.
She still remembers the emotional roller-coaster ride of her first transplant, an adult patient with a liver tumor who came in for a resection and was told that a liver transplant was his only hope of survival. The patient’s family initially balked at her doing the transplant, but the senior attending held his ground. A liver was located and flown in, but even as Dr. Scantlebury performed the transplant, she sensed that something was wrong with that liver. “Oh, no, no, no, not my first case!” she said to herself. Still, she kept her cool. “I’m going to be up-front with you,” she told the family, “I don’t know whether this liver is going to work or not.” As it turned out, the liver was damaged and needed to be replaced. She subsequently transplanted another liver and the patient survived. “I ended up being good friends with that family for years. My honesty paid off.”
While kidneys and livers are colorblind, patients and their families are not. “In the beginning, yes, people felt uncomfortable, not only with a female, but a black female, doing the transplant; it was very humiliating, degrading,” she remembers. There were times when a patient demanded, “Nurse, pass the bedpan.” Or, “I’m ready to go home and I have yet to see the real doctor.”
“I wanted to scream: ‘Well, who do you think I am?!’”
But her stubborn streak helped her keep a stiff upper lip and a steady hand. “I remember one patient in Pittsburgh who didn’t want to be transplanted by me. And I said, ‘I’m okay with that.’ I got to the point where I saw it as their loss, not mine, just ignorance on their part.”
Dr. Scantlebury was invited to stay on at Pittsburgh following the conclusion of her fellowship and in 1988 joined the faculty in the Department of Surgery, rising to the rank of associate professor. She also helped launch a living kidney donor program and eventually specialized in live kidney transplants in pediatric and adult cases.
At Pittsburgh, she also conducted landmark research on transplantation and pregnancy. It had been the custom to discourage patients from getting pregnant, as the potential effect of the post-transplant drugs on the fetus was not known. But as it turned out, a number of patients were already pregnant before the transplant. Dr. Scantlebury conducted a study of the birth defects and prematurity in their offspring. Over time, with data in hand, she was able to advise patients of child-bearing age regarding the necessary precautions for healthy births. “Now we tell them, if you want to have a child, wait at least 12 to 15 months to make sure you’re stable and outside the rejection period.”
In 1996, another former fellow and friend, Dr. Ferdinand Ukah, a native of Nigeria, established the University of South Alabama Regional Transplant Center in Mobile. But Dr. Ukah met his untimely death that same year and the program foundered.
Photo Credit: Peter Wortsman
Then in 2002, Dr. Scantlebury moved to Mobile to join the surgical faculty as a full professor and to put the program back on its feet. “I wanted to make it work, in part because this was my friend Ferdinand’s dream and, in part, because it was a new challenge and time to move on.” In addition, she relished the educational aspect of her new job, particularly the educational outreach to the African-American community regarding the availability of and need for transplantation. Cognizant of Alabama’s less than rosy history in race relations, she hoped to help redress the staggering disparity, particularly in the South, between the low number of blacks and the number of whites being transplanted. Roughly two-thirds of her patients are African-American. They come from a wide perimeter that includes south Alabama, the neighboring gulf coast of Mississippi to the west, and the panhandle of Florida to the east.
“My passion,” she said in a recent profile in Ebony magazine, “is to educate the African-American community and to empower dialysis patients with the knowledge and understanding that they too can have a better life through the gift of transplantation.”
Balmy Mobile has been a climatic relief from Pittsburgh’s long chilly winters. The proximity to the water, reminiscent of Barbados, was another plus. Her husband, Harvey White, Ph.D., is professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and president-elect of the National Association of Public Administrators. With two tight academic schedules and two teenage daughters, they have managed to survive and thrive despite the strains of a long-distance, frequent flyer marriage.
Dr. Scantlebury maintains a tight daily regimen. Up at 5:30, she drops her daughters off to school and scrubs in at the OR
by 7:30. If no new cases are scheduled, she proceeds to her clinic visits, seeing post-transplant patients on Mondays and Thursdays and doing pre-transplant evaluation on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But the contingencies of transplant surgery demand her being on call at all times, whenever kidneys become available. She currently performs about 35 kidney transplants a year.
|“I remember one patient in Pittsburgh who didn’t want to be transplanted by me. And I said, ‘I’m okay with that.’ I got to the point where I saw it as their loss, not mine, just ignorance on their part.”
Outside the OR, the biggest challenge, she says, is maintaining longevity. The average survival time for a kidney transplant is 10 to 15 years for a living donor kidney transplant and eight years for a transplant from a cadaver organ. “We’re good at controlling acute rejection early on, but we still don’t have a good handle on controlling the chronic destruction that occurs over time.”
Another challenge, particularly in caring for the economically hard-hit population of south Alabama, is finding the funds to pay for essential post-transplant drugs. Medicare covers 80 percent of the cost of medications for the first three years after transplantation. Beyond that, as Dr. Scantlebury bluntly puts it: “You’re on your own, honey! Medicare expects people to get a job and go back to work, but not everybody is able to do that.” Many of her patients are either uninsured or underinsured. With Medicare co-pays sometimes running as high as $500 to $800 a month, family budgets are strained. Consequently, patients stretch their medications to make them last, kidneys fail, and they return to dialysis. “It’s a medical catch-22,” Dr. Scantlebury concedes. She and a social worker do their best to squeeze the government and the pharmaceutical companies to try to help her patients remain compliant.
Getting the Word Out
A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Scantlebury is a member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the American Society of Minority Health and Transplant Professionals, among other organizations. She is the co-author of more than 85 peer-reviewed papers and 10 monographs and book chapters. She sits on numerous boards and committees, including Donate Life America, the National Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program, and the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Listed in “Who’s Who of American Women,” she was twice voted among the Best Doctors in America by Pittsburgh Magazine and received the Outstanding Young Women of America Annual Award, the Black Achievers Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society of Minority Health and Transplant Professionals, as well as honorary doctor of science degrees from Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania and from LIU, her undergraduate alma mater.
She has given countless lectures and presentations at professional meetings and public forums and has frequently been interviewed for documentaries and for radio and TV programs.
She also takes every opportunity to speak to students and their parents, urging young people not to “let the negative perceptions of others sink into you to become your own perception of who you are” and urging parents to “encourage your young ones, whatever their dreams and aspirations.”
Though wanting at this point in her career to slow down some and spend a bit more quality time with her family, she remains passionately committed to her work. “I’ve always said that I would not retire till there are at least 10 other African-American women in transplantation.” Currently there is one other African-American female transplant surgeon (in Los Angeles). With nine more to go, Dr. Scantlebury will have her hands full for a while.
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Rx for Travel
Mobile, Alabama: Gone with the Wind (and Come Back Again)
By Peter Wortsman
Six flags have flown over Mobile in the course of its 300-year history, banners belonging to Spain, France, Britain, the Republic of Alabama, the Confederacy, and the Stars and Stripes. Still, it’s the live oaks, draped in tattered green coats of Spanish moss, that best symbolize the place. Having weathered epic sea battles, catastrophic hurricanes, periods of prosperity and decline, the great trees wave their massive branches in melodramatic defiance like combatants in a silent saga of the Old South.
Photo Credit: Peter Wortsman
The first capital of French King Louis XIV’s colony of Louisiana, Mobile grew into a thriving American port and trading center in the early 19th century under the reign of King Cotton. And though the city subsequently fell into decline and rediscovered itself again as a shipbuilding arsenal during World War II, it’s the culture of cotton that left its distinctive architectural stamp in the stately antebellum mansions recessed from the curb and the colorful Victorians (in one of which, the Kate Shepard House, Tel. 251-479-7048, a school-turned-B&B, I lodged while in town to interview Velma Scantlebury’81).
The Oakleigh Historic Complex, a genteel Greek revival mansion built by a wealthy cotton broker, tells the glamorous side of the story. Here luxury knew no limit and the lovely socialite Octavia Walton LeVert once welcomed such notable guests as Edgar Allen Poe. My feisty guide in period costume, Sister Strong, made the portraits whisper, the hardwood floorboards creak, and the old house spill its secrets.
Exhibits at the Museum of Mobile, downtown on Royal Street, told another side of the story, including the massacre by the Spanish colonizers of the Maubila Tribe, the original residents of the Bay, and the subsequent trade in human cargo from Africa that kept King Cotton on his throne. Entering the hold of a simulated slave ship, the visitor is stunned and deeply disturbed by the recorded Yoruba wail of men and women in bondage and by the bare shackled feet reaching out like feelers in the dark. In the forthright display on segregation and the struggle for civil rights, it is equally disturbing to come upon a starched white Ku Klux Klan gown and cowl in the place where it was worn.
Fort Gaines, out on the tip of Dauphin Island, still has its big guns pointed at the Bay, where the decisive Naval battle of the Civil War was fought and lost by the Confederacy.
Pummeled by the wind of war, Mobile also has suffered nature’s wallop. Driving over the swampy terrain, where Hurricane Katrina swept shorefront houses off their stilts, leaving huge heaps of pick-up sticks, I passed brightly painted shrimp shacks and shrimp boats straight out of “Forest Gump.” I’d feasted on the catch the night before at Cousin-Vinny’s-and-Guido’s, an eclectic eatery featuring fist-sized shrimp.
On the counsel of a portly blacksmith in period garb bending red hot iron rods at the Fort, I put my car on the ferry across Mobile Bay, a sea unto itself, where a white cap off the starboard bow trailed a dancing dolphin, and drove on out to Lambert’s Café, in Foley, for a heaping plate of fried catfish with all the fixings.
Sub-tropical by climate, Deep Southern by culture, welcoming by bent, Mobile is rich in history and cholesterol. Visit www.mobile.org/ for more information.
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Alumni Association Activities
|Guest speaker Andrew Frantz’55 with Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80
The guest speaker at the Nov. 15, 2006, council dinner, Andrew Frantz’55, professor of medicine and dean of admissions, inspired attendees with his witty and insightful take on the admission process. Dr. Frantz, a past president of the Alumni Association, was pleased to report that in the past five years P&S consistently ranked near the top of the list of American medical schools in selectivity of students and retention of the most desirable students selected. Among the qualities he and other members of the admissions committee look for, in addition to proven academic ability, he noted, is “the capacity to become seriously and deeply involved in something and do something about it,” and “a generosity of spirit.” Talent and ability in the arts have long been valued in prospective P&S students. High performance in athletics and, notably, “the ability to train hard and long” is another measure. “Our students are our best recruiters,” augmenting the school’s stellar reputation, Dr. Frantz said. It is often the contact of applicants with current P&S students at the time of their interview that makes them want to study medicine in Washington Heights.
|Caroline Tapley and Thomas Q. Morris’58 at the Donald F. Tapley Faculty Club dedication, flanked by Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80, front left, and other members of the Tapley family
Mrs. Caroline Tapley and other family members of the late Dr. Donald F. Tapley, the revered medical investigator, clinician-educator, and former dean, were on hand at the council dinner on Jan. 17, 2007, to help dedicate the Faculty Club in Dr. Tapley’s memory. Formerly the location of the P&S library, the space was earmarked by Dr. Tapley for a faculty club upon the completion of the new library in the Hammer Health Sciences Center. In the words of Thomas Q. Morris’58, alumni professor emeritus of clinical medicine, past president of Presbyterian Hospital, and a long-time friend and associate of Dr. Tapley’s: “This club has brought about a social presence for the faculty and students at this institution and has become a focus of many gracious and pleasant occasions which we wouldn’t enjoy otherwise.” Other attendees at the dedication included Dr. Tapley’s close friends and major P&S supporters Herbert and Florence Irving. A commemorative plaque was unveiled. On behalf of the Tapley family, Dr. Tapley’s daughter, Elisabeth, an administrator for the infectious diseases division of the Department of Medicine, thanked Dr. Morris for his kind words. After a toast to Dr. Tapley’s legacy, the Apgar Memorial Quartet, under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Cunningham, professor emeritus of clinical pediatrics and clinical public health, performed classical selections in tribute.
Student Career Fair
Students and alumni filled the Faculty Club on Nov. 9, 2006, for the annual Black and Latino Student Organization (BALSO) dinner. The event was co-sponsored by the Alumni Association, and seven past presidents of the association were present. Recent past president Jay H. Lefkowitch’76 stood in as master of ceremonies for current president Jacqueline Bello’80, who was out of town. Lester W. Blair’70, chairman of the Committee on Minority Affairs, convened the event and introduced BALSO president Tyson Bell’09. Mr. Bell proudly reported that “we are one of the most active organizations here on campus.” Dr. Lefkowitch introduced the guest speaker, Kathie-Ann Joseph’95, assistant professor of surgery at P&S and director of breast cancer surgical research at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Joseph, a native of Brooklyn, earned her B.A. from Harvard College and was the first African-American in many years to train in surgery at New York University. Her passion for medicine was first sparked by her participation as a high school student in a summer program in a laboratory at P&S. She directed her remarks to the minority students in attendance. “Whatever you decide to do,” she said, “be passionate about it and know more about it than anybody else.” This philosophy served her well from her childhood in Brooklyn throughout her stellar academic career. “You will invariably encounter people who will try to take you away from your dreams,” she warned. “Don’t let them do it. Keep you eyes on the prize.”
A large group of third-year students joined senior residents from almost all the clinical departments at Columbia for the annual career dinner, held at the Faculty Club in October. As in previous years, second-year students were invited, and many chose to attend. Residents were divided among the tables by specialty, and students were free to seat themselves according to their interests or spend time with residents from multiple fields over the course of the evening. Many students welcomed the occasion as an opportunity to discuss the next phase of their training in a relaxed setting and at some distance from the daily academic pressures of medical school. Popular topics of discussion ranged from the residency application process to the challenges of balancing postgraduate training and personal or family life. The event was sponsored by the P&S Alumni Association and organized by the alumni office in cooperation with the third-year class representatives to the Student-Alumni Relations Committee. Bram Welch-Horan’08
|Co-organizers Bram Welch-Horan’08 and Melissa Laudano’08 with Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80, center, at the 2006 career fair
Medicine and the Arts: Lansbury Lights Up the Heights
As part of the Medicine and the Arts seminar series, the Alumni Association hosted a Nov. 20, 2006, visit by Angela Lansbury to speak about her 60-year acting career. More about this event starts on Page 14.
Alumni Honored at ACAA Scholarship Fund Benefit
John P. Bilezikian’69, professor of medicine (endocrinology) and pharmacology, presented the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Asian Columbia Alumni Association to John Eng’74 at the association’s gala benefit awards dinner in October at Low Library. Dr. Eng, associate professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is best known for his discovery of Byetta (synthetic Exendin-4), a widely used drug to control diabetes. He is director of clinical informatics and staff physician in the endocrine section at the Bronx VA Medical Center. Other individuals who made the evening possible included Anke Nolting, Ph.D., associate dean of development and alumni affairs at P&S, who served as a member of the dinner committee, and the distinguished microsurgeon David Chiu’73, Columbia University Trustee Clyde Wu’56, and the honoree John Eng’74, who lent their support as individual sponsors. The association is a nonprofit organization of Asian alumni from all schools of Columbia University. Proceeds from the event will benefit an association scholarship fund.
Alumni Dinner in Seattle
The Alumni Association hosted a dinner in Seattle last fall in conjunction with the annual meeting there of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The speaker was Lee Goldman, the P&S dean, who communicated some of the excitement of his vision for the future of academic medicine at P&S. Students, he stressed, are what the educational enterprise is all about, and he emphasized the need to upgrade and enhance the educational facilities on campus.
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By Marianne Wolff’52
Class of 1943
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, T. Berry Brazelton was the recipient of the 2006 Arnold Lucius Gesell Prize. The prize, given for his outstanding lifetime achievements, cited him as follows: “His path-breaking studies form the foundation of our understanding of the crucial importance of early behavioral diagnostics and the treatment of psychosocial and emotional disorders in infancy.” The prize is conferred annually upon researchers who have made a significant contribution to the field of child development. Arnold Lucius Gesell was a pediatrician and psychologist who founded the Yale Clinic of Child Development.
Class of 1952
Forensic pathologist Judith G. Tobin, who is assistant state medical examiner in Delaware and chairman of pathology at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford, Del., has received a number of awards over the years. At the end of 2006 she was inducted into the Physicians’ Hall of Fame at her hospital, which she has served for 46 years, and was honored by Delaware’s Division of Health and Social Services when the new building housing the southern office of the chief medical examiner was named for her.
Despite a lack of shared genes, Bill Pollin and his stepson, Jonathan Amiel ’07, have a lot in common. Both had cause for celebration in May: Bill the 55th anniversary of his graduation from P&S and Yoni, as Jonathan is known, receiving his M.D. from P&S. Bill is a semi-retired psychiatrist; Yoni has been matched at Columbia for his psychiatry residency. Both were tapped for AOA membership. Yoni was also elected to the Gold Humanism Society, established long after Bill’s graduation. Yoni has been class president for all four years at P&S.
Class of 1953
Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, George Cahill was honored by a research symposium held in his honor at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston in December 2006. Serving as research director of the clinic from 1962 to 1978, George has authored more than 350 journal articles; he has received two Banting medals and the Director’s Award from the National Institutes of Health. Over the years he has held positions at New England Deaconess, Harvard, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and, most recently, Dartmouth College.
|C. Ronald Kahn of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, presents a painting to George Cahill’53, right, former research director of Joslin, during a symposium held in Dr. Cahill’s honor
Class of 1959
Kenneth A. Forde has been named to the Board of Trustees of Columbia University. A graduate of City College of New York, he has been a member of the P&S faculty since 1966. Within the Department of Surgery he was vice chairman for external affairs and development until retiring.
Class of 1962
Trained as a clinical dermatologist, A. Bernard Ackerman took a fellowship in dermatopathology and it is in that discipline that he gained international renown. He has published many papers, written numerous books, and conducted teaching conferences on virtually all aspects of dermatopathology. He has taught at the University of Miami and New York University and in 1999 created the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology in New York City. His best known books are “Histologic Diagnosis of Inflammatory Skin Diseases” and “Dermatopathology, Practical and Conceptual.” In 1992 he founded the American Journal of Dermatopathology, becoming its first editor in chief. In 2004 “Bernie,” as those in the field call him, retired upon reaching the age of 70. He has received numerous honors, nationally and internationally, the most recent being the Master Dermatologist Award of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2004.
Class of 1970
Originally trained as a radiologist, Richard M. Spiegel has been a child and adolescent psychiatrist longer than he worked as a radiologist. He is a Fellow of the APA and has been the president of Arizona’s Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Society. He runs a single specialty private practice group and has managed “to avoid any entanglement with managed care.” His latest achievement has been to become a grandfather of a boy, whom he hopes to enroll in the P&S class of 2029!
Z. Nicholas Zakov has been promoted to clinical professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
Class of 1972
Scott M. Hammer, the Harold C. Neu Professor of Medicine, chief of the infectious diseases division at P&S, and professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, has been appointed to the board of S.I.G.A. Technologies Inc. This company is applying genomics and computational modeling in the design and development of novel products for the prevention and treatment of serious infectious diseases, with an emphasis on products for biological warfare defense. Scott also chairs the AIDS Vaccine Research Working Group, an advisory committee to the Division of AIDS at the NIAID, and is a past chairman of the Antiviral Products Advisory Committee of the FDA.
Class of 1973
The book “Emerging Viruses in Human Populations” edited by Edward Tabor was published by Elsevier at the end of 2006. Ed is affiliated with the FDA in Rockville, Md.
Class of 1982
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has appointed Jonathan D. Licht to the position of professor of medicine. Jonathan was previously affiliated with Mount Sinai in New York, where he also served as assistant director of the M.D.-Ph.D. program.
Class of 1984
Christopher Gordon, a pediatrician who joined A.P.S. Healthcare as chief medical officer in 2006, has been appointed president of the company’s commercial programs division. Kit is associate clinical professor in health evaluation science at Penn State University College of Medicine and a senior scholar in the Jefferson Medical College Department of Health Policy. He also serves as a faculty practitioner, teaching negotiation in the Johns Hopkins University’s Business of Medicine M.B.A. program. He received an MHSA from the College of St. Francis. A.P.S. Healthcare, headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., has more than 1 million members; it offers “customized, integrated health care solutions in care management and behavioral health services.”
Class of 1986
BioAdvance, a seed-stage investor in life
sciences companies, has added Christopher Damm to its roster of venture partners. Chris holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School in addition to his M.D. from P&S. His charge is to review funding proposals and provide business strategy and product expertise to BioAdvance’s life science companies.
Class of 1998 Ph.D.
Kevin F. Kwaku, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology from Columbia. His fellowship training in cardiology and electrophysiology was at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Kevin has been appointed to the position of director of the arrhythmia monitoring lab at Beth Israel Deaconess. He is an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Class of 2007
See Class of 1952 for information about Jonathan Amiel.
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Clyde Wu’56, the distinguished cardiologist, Columbia University trustee, and philanthropist, was saluted in his native Hong Kong with an Honorary University Fellowship from Hong Kong University, one of that institution’s highest honors. Dr. Wu was recognized for his cardiopulmonary research and for his visionary largesse in medical education. The citation highlighted his “stewardship of the many research funds, exchange professorships and fellowships established by the Wu family” and his instrumental role in “building programs of academic and research collaboration between the University of Hong Kong and medical institutions and universities in China and the United States.”
Alumnus Honored in His Native Hong Kong
Ancient and Modern Medical History Meet at P&S, with an Alumni Twist
By Peter Wortsman
The following story was related by Raymond P. Robinson’75, clinical professor of orthopedics at the University of Washington at Seattle, whose P&S family ties include his late father, Harry J. Robinson’48, and brother, Harry Robinson Jr.’72. Dr. Robinson was in town to be on hand for the cardiac catheterization of his mother, Marian, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She subsequently underwent open heart surgery there, performed by Michael Agenziano’92, to replace a congenitally defective aortic valve. The cardiac catheterization procedure was developed by another alumnus and a close family friend, Nobel laureate Dickinson Richards’23.
Now the plot thickens. Years ago, Dr. Richards, a classicist and bibliophile, passed on to Dr. Robinson’s father a beautiful leather-bound 16th century Latin translation of “De Materia Medica,” by the Greek physician Dioscorides, the precursor of all modern pharmacopeias. The two men, Harry Robinson and Dickinson Richards, had known each other from Merck & Co., the great pharmaceutical firm, where the former was head of research at the Merck Institute and the latter served as a medical consultant. (Harry Robinson, incidentally, was instrumental in recruiting another illustrious P&S alumnus, P. Roy Vagelos’54, to Merck).
Leafing through its precious pages, preparing, with his mother’s approval, to pass the book on to his own son, Vytas, who recently earned his B.A. at Santa Clara University, where he majored in medical biologic sciences, Raymond Robinson found letters from Dr. Richards to his father. The letters made the book all the more precious. And it seemed to him as if then and there the strands of medical history, ancient and modern, entwined before his very eyes, strands binding Dioscorides, Dickinson Richards, his late father, his mother, his brother, his son, and himself to a great medical tradition upheld and promulgated at P&S.
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Doctors in Print
Memoirs of Medical Lives Far Afield and Up Close
Reviews by Peter Wortsman
“Beyond the Storm: Treating the Powerless and the Powerful in Mobutu’s Congo/Zaire”
By William T. Close’51 with Malonga Miatudila, M.D., MPH
Meadowlark Spring Productions, LLC, 2007, 343 pages
As former director of the Hôpital des Congolais, chief doctor of the Congolese Army, and personal physician to Mobutu Sese Seko, founding father turned dictator of the Democratic Republic of Congo, William T. Close’51 has firsthand knowledge of what he calls “the havoc caused by the virus of power.” In his riveting memoir, “Beyond the Storm: Treating the Powerless and the Powerful in Mobutu’s Congo/Zaire,” co-authored with Dr. Malonga Miatudila, Dr. Close takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride tracing the rise and fall of one of Africa’s most charismatic leaders. The book will inevitably have added resonance following Forrest Whitaker’s receipt of an academy award for his portrayal of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the movie, “The Last King of Scotland.”
Having first gone to Africa as a medical missionary, the author soon found himself performing surgery in the thick of a revolution. His surgical skills and medical acumen came to the attention of General Mobutu. Dr. Close entered the general’s inner circle as physician and confidant. Over the next decade and a half, he became privy to the private and the public sides of his high profile patient, from the heady days of the young Mobutu’s bold leadership to his sordid decline, during which he turned a blind eye to the problems of his country while stubbornly clinging to power. When Mobutu publicly hanged four politicians accused of plotting a coup against him, Dr. Close was profoundly upset and questioned his role in Mobutu’s circle.
While journalists and historians may have offered more objective accounts of these turbulent decades in modern African history, Close tells his story as he lived it, neither demonizing nor deifying his erstwhile patient and close associate. “Beyond the Storm” may give prospective candidates for work in international public health a bit of pause. Then again, it may spur them on to find their own revolution.
“Life on the Lower East Side”
Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff,
text by Peter E. Dans’61 and Suzanne Wasserman
Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, 207 pages
“I’m a New Yorker. Forget the fact that I haven’t lived there for over 40 years. My accent and rate of speech betray me.” So begin the bittersweet reminiscences by Peter Dans’61 of life in New York’s mythic immigrant neighborhood, the Lower East Side. His words eloquently frame the black and white photographs of Rebecca Lepkoff in “Life on the Lower East Side,” a book full of faces that talk, fire escapes that wave their ladders like hands, and shadows that fall where they will. The first generation American-born son of an Italian immigrant family, Dr. Dans gives voice to the snapshots with miniature portraits of a colorful array of characters, including his great-uncle, Vito, a barber-cum-street surgeon who “specialized in using leeches to treat ‘shiners,’ or black eyes,” and a beloved uncle, Pete, whose multiple careers included stints as fireman, milkman, policeman, toll collector, and inspector of weights and measures at Hunts Point market who “canceled a doctor’s appointment because he wasn’t feeling well...on the day of his death” and asked that “his dancing shoes be placed in his casket, because he planned to ‘dance with the angels.’” Though far from angelic, the ruffled faces and tender words in “Life on the Lower East Side” burst the myth of the melting pot as some homogenizing cauldron. Dr. Dans reminds us that New York is, was, and always will be a hotbed of diversity.
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From the Classes
Class of 2007: Cristina Elena Brickman
BY MARK MANN’08 AND IRENE LO’08
Considering the multilingual and multinational nature of patients treated at Columbia, it is not surprising that P&S attracts medical students from all parts of the globe. The best and brightest students from all over the world from the Czech Republic to Puerto Rico to Brazil to Spain come to P&S to study medicine. Cristina Elena Brickman is one such import. Born in Toronto, Canada, but raised in Las Rozas, Madrid, Spain, from age 3 until she returned to Canada for college at McGill University in Montreal, she is the prototypical international P&S student.
After majoring in microbiology and immunology (earning an honors degree) and minoring in Italian studies, Ms. Brickman decided to solidify her scientific pedigree by taking a year before medical school to perform research. She used FSH receptor knockout mice to investigate the role of estrogen deficiency on glucose tolerance. She originally intended to study medicine in Canada but fell in love with P&S during her admissions interview, particularly drawn by the opportunity to work with the largely Dominican population of Washington Heights and to practice medicine in the Spanish language she used as a child.
She has volunteered extensively at CoSMO, the student-run free clinic that provides care for the uninsured, working largely as an interpreter but also directing patient outreach and translating documents into Spanish. In 2005, Ms. Brickman received the CoSMO Student Volunteer of the Year Award. As a member of the Brown Scholars, a program for students interested in primary care, she spent considerable time in ambulatory settings. After her first year of medical school, Ms. Brickman spent part of the summer in the Dominican Republic collaborating on two projects with Dr. Stephen Nicholas: a study of prenatal HIV counseling and a study of HIV stigma within the country’s migratory Haitian population. Upon her return, she collected books that were sent to a small village in Azua, one of the poorest regions of the country.
Before receiving her degree in May, Ms. Brickman married her college sweetheart, William James Glass. She will begin a residency in internal medicine at Columbia, which she sees as an opportunity to acquire the broad knowledge base necessary “to approach the human body as a whole and not just as a series of separate organ systems.”
Her academic record at P&S, including Alpha Omega Alpha distinction, gives her credentials for a bright and promising career.
Class of 2008: Adedamola Ogunniyi and Ingrid Ramirez
BY MELISSA LAUDANO’08
Varied backgrounds of classmates enrich everyone’s experience at P&S, and two members of the Class of 2008 who grew up outside the continental United States illustrate that. Adedamola Ogunniyi was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria. As the daughter of two physicians, medicine was a familiar profession to Adedamola, but she kept an open mind about her career path during her primary and secondary schooling. Adedamola attended a boarding school in Nigeria, which prepared her for life away from home. At age 15, she moved to the United States to study at Rutgers University, where she majored in biochemistry and biotechnology.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she began medical school at age 19. Although Adedamola’s path to medical school made her one of the youngest in our class, she has always felt comfortable among her peers. Adedamola is interested in pursuing a career in medicine or pediatrics.
Ingrid Ramirez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where she attended a private bilingual school. Ingrid learned about the joys of medicine at an early age from her father, who worked as an obstetrician/gynecologist. As a child she was fascinated by her father’s career and impressed by his close relationship with his patients. Reflecting on her father’s practice, Ingrid notes that he often takes care of all the women in a large Puerto Rican family. The relationship between physician and patient inspired Ingrid to pursue medicine. After arriving at Yale University for college, however, she began considering other career paths, such as architecture and engineering. It was her work as a volunteer interpreter at Yale-New Haven Hospital that reaffirmed her desire to become a physician. Ingrid has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and is applying to ob/gyn residency programs next year.
These two remarkable women are examples of the diverse backgrounds characteristic of so many students at P&S. Their early experiences in environments different from where most of us grew up shaped who they are today and inspired their desire to go into medicine. Unique personalities and life experiences are common among P&S students but few bring as much diversity and culture to our class as students raised in less traditional settings.
Class of 2009: Emily Hurstak
BY JEANNE FRANZONE’09 WITH DARIUS FEWLASS’09
While the second year of medical school keeps us busy with long hours of classroom learning, boards preparation, and exciting early patient encounters, Emily Hurstak’09 is impressively taking the year in stride. She has not lost sight of her reasons for coming to P&S and her overall goals in medicine.
After graduating from Yale in 2003, Emily worked in India on the Henry Hart Rice Foreign Residence fellowship with women who started a microfinance institution to help groups of women pool resources to obtain loans to build small businesses. The institution also provided educational opportunities and health promotion programs. Emily worked to design a women’s health program, establish an HIV education program, and complete a health survey for use in designing a partial health insurance effort.
After returning to the United States, Emily worked near her hometown of Sudbury, Mass., for a year as a social worker for Boston Healthcare for Homeless. As a case manager and counselor for the HIV team, she provided outreach at many shelters. “I hope to continue working for them or a very similar organization here in New York,” Emily says. The underserved urban population served by Columbia and the enthusiasm of P&S students for community outreach were significant factors that drew Emily to P&S. Even as a prospective student, Emily noted that students appeared to be socially informed, outgoing, and fun. This was reinforced over the past two years in her work with other students to create a homeless clinic in Harlem.
Emily also played a large role in organizing the Community Pulse conference last fall as a joint effort of the International Health Organization, Family Medicine Interest Group, and the Public Health Interest Group. The well-attended conference focused on global and community health and involved many students and faculty members. As far as her future in medicine, Emily anticipates more international work and plans on pursuing primary care. She also plans to study for a master’s degree in public health at some point, citing the Mailman School of Public Health as an excellent resource. In the spare time Emily impressively manages to make in her busy schedule, she loves to run, do yoga, and make jewelry, She enjoys living on campus with her husband, also a Yale ’03 alumnus, as she continues the P&S tradition of the powerful motivation and enthusiasm that make P&S unique.