35 year reunion of the School of Medicine, Class of ’76, Medical College of Georgia. Technically 39 years from the first day we laid eyes on each other, which would have been I think Sept 1, 1972.
It had been 25 years since I had been to Augusta, Ga. I drove in from Atlanta in a rental car and I found, much like Vietnam, it had all changed radically during that time. Augusta, like many cities has been reduced to a huge interlocking system of strip malls, fast food cafes, gas stations and the like. The previous landscape has essentially been obliterated. Without a GPS, I would probably still be looking for all of it.
But interestingly, the core area of what would be “downtown” has changed little. It’s still dowdy and pretty much the same rundown stage it’s always been, with the occasional islands of luxury hotels spotting the landscape. The residential areas have not so much turned a blade of grass.
My GPS took me to the house where we lived, 1014 Adrian Street. A full sized house a wife of a local doctor bought and rented out to medical students. One apartment down and the other upstairs. We lived in the downstairs area and another guy lived upstairs. I rode a motorcycle (’70 Honda CB 350) the entire four years of medical school. I rode it up the steps and parked it on the porch to keep it out of the rain. (See photos). The house was EXACTLY as I left if in 1976, same color absolutely nothing had changed on the entire street except the trees and shrubs had grown larger. There are a lot of memories there for me.
So I drove over to where I thought the School of Medicine used to be, got lost and ended up in a huge conglomeration of new medical center buildings. An amazing array that went on and on, none of which were there when I was. I was totally lost and couldn’t even find a place to park. So I backtracked back to the house, then carefully followed my best recollection of the route I followed for four years, finally figuring it out.
The old School of Medicine is actually pretty much hidden now by trees and shrubs. I have no idea what it’s used for if it’s used at all. It looks like it’s still in use but it was locked and I couldn’t get in.
On to dinner with those that came for the reunion.
Our class was very close, and we have kept tabs on each other reasonably well mainly due to Class President Dr. Frank Farmer who has acted as the class historian and organizer all these years. He’s worked hard to track everyone down. I might add that he was just selected by the Governor of Florida to be the Surgeon General of the State of Florida.
Our class has much of the demographics of any other discrete, defined population. There were 161 of us in 1972. There were 17 females, which was pretty considerable then. We hailed from very heterogeneous backgrounds, an admission policy which was fashionable in the 70s. I have heard many of my colleagues now involved in admissions say they could never have gotten into medical school today. Without a doubt, that includes me.
To date (again, best of my remembrance because I didn’t take notes), we have had eight deaths, one suicide, one from AIDS in the 80s, the rest from one disease or another. We are all in out 60s, age-wise and from within the population we know about, no one has retired (after 35 years). Some of us have vanished, and that’s hard to do in the era of Google Spiders. One of us was too young, too smart (19 years old in 1972) and following graduation she ended up in a hippie commune in New Mexico, where I hear she still resides. Others have simply vanished. But about 75% of us still keep in touch.
At the dinner, each of us, in turn, got up and told the group what we were doing and what we were about after 35 years. There were some interesting comments.
About 60% practice in Georgia. About 20% practice in an area bordered by Augusta, Athens and Atlanta. This is natural since by law in 1972, MCG accepted only authentic residents of Georgia (with an occasional outlier- Mike FInck from New York City). I found it quite interesting that the majority of the class are still married to the same original spouse. Average length- 38 years.
He majority of us (I think 80%) practice primary care, mostly private practice or direct patient care from within an academic setting. Emergency Medicine, anesthesia, orthopedics, OB-GYN, Pediatrics, Family Practice, General Surgery, Internal Medicine. There is one neurosurgeon, one pulmonary-critical care, one neurocritical care (me), one pediatric anesthesia. Only a few radiologists, oncologists and such.
Some ventilated their frustrations. There was a theme of visceral loathing for personal injury lawyers, one tale of which detailed a ten-year fight at that ended with a lawyer in jail. Georgia has traditionally been a very Democratic State, but of late, it has turned very conservative. There were several political speeches from a very conservative viewpoint, one of us involved in suing to repeal “Obamacare”. I’ll spare you commentary on that issue.
That’s pretty much my assessment. We pretty much look our age, but we have used our 35 years at the bedside well. I suspect there will be many of us at the 50-year mark and we’ll all be doing something productive. We were unique then and we are unique now. We are living icons proving that the admissions committee in 1972 chose exceptionally well.
A well deserved toast to us.