“The best day of my life was not graduating from medical school, it was the first day of medical school, which I skipped to see the World Series in 1959,” joked William M. Bennett, MD’63. “The next day I started medical school.”Dr. Bennett, an expert in kidney transplantation, received this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award and kicked off Alumni Weekend 2014 with the keynote address at the Welcome Luncheon. He was given this award in honor of his outstanding professional achievements as a clinician, researcher and educator.
“The one thing I learned at Northwestern that I will always remember is how to be a doctor, and I mean that in broadest sense of being a doctor,” Dr. Bennett said. “I’ve always valued learning and clinical teaching, and Northwestern excels in those areas. I am really honored to have this award.”
More than 400 alumni and guests participated in the weekend, which ran April 11-12.
Following the luncheon, alumni gathered to hear Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean, give an update on major events at the medical school. He discussed the development of innovative institutions and centers and the recruitment of a number of high-quality faculty over the past year, as well as his vision for a tuition-free medical school and the future of the new biomedical research building.
“The research tower will be a critical feature of our success. We’ve run out of research space downtown and we can’t grow and be competitive like our peers until we get this building in place,” Dr. Neilson said. “To help populate the structure, we will create new institutes for interdisciplinary science. These are very important activities that bring departments together across many disciplines to create new ways of discovery and translation.”
The afternoon continued with Career Conversations with Students and Alumni, an event that gave alumni the opportunity to share insights about the medical profession with students and other alums.
“It is nice to hear about medical education and how the student experience has changed. I remember having to take the tram to the children’s hospital in Lincoln Park and now the children’s hospital [Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago] is right here” said Elise Opel, MD’99.
The day ended with the Nathan Smith Davis Recognition Program reception and reunion class dinners.
Throughout the weekend, alumni had the opportunity to take tours of the city and the Chicago campus, Lurie Children’s, the Center for Education in Medicine’s Simulation Technology and Immersive Learning Center and other cutting-edge research labs.
“It is a totally different medical school from 45 years ago,” said Lou Fazen, MD’69. “Northwestern always taught us to put patients first, but this is a better patients first. Back then we had great clinicians teaching us and a nice set of hospitals, but we did a lot of learning on our own. Now students are taught by renowned faculty members in their fields and have access to simulation education and a research enterprise.”
Walking through the Method Atrium in the Ward Building brought back warm feelings for Michael Halpern, MD’69, GME’75.
“In the library we read books and used it to look up information for class. Now students don’t have to use the library, they can look everything up on their computers,” he said. “I went to the anatomy lab and it was amazing. They have the entire class of 160 students spread out in a room working on cadavers. When I was in medical school, we had about 16 students to a room and rotated through different modules.”
Saturday’s events included continuing medical education seminars featuring some of the medical school’s top scientists and Family Fest, an event where alumni and their families engaged in activities such as face-painting and games.
At the annual Commitment to Scholarships Luncheon, the Class of 1964 celebrated its 50-year reunion and was honored for creating the Class of 1964 Endowed Scholarship to help future medical students fund their educations.
The weekend concluded with the Dean’s Reception and Ball at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.