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Checking In With...

Many P&S alumni leave New York after graduation and never return. In this recurring segment, P&S will check in on a far-flung graduate, particularly one who made a mark on P&S while in medical school.

Reuben Last’92 was active in the curriculum review process during medical school, president of his second-year class, and a master carpenter for Bard Hall Players set designs. He has transferred his leadership skills to New Mexico, where he is a general surgeon on the faculty of the University of New Mexico and acting chief of general surgery at the Albuquerque Veteran’s Medical Center.

Reuben, who grew up in Brooklyn, worked as a carpenter, chef, social worker, and aide to members of the New York Assembly before enrolling in medical school. He left New York after medical school to begin a residency in general surgery at the University of New Mexico and the VA Hospital, joining the UNM faculty after completing his residency. “Little did I think I would end up in a school where the emphasis is on primary care, 180 degrees contrary to the way P&S was doing it when I participated in the curriculum review process. Only one member from my class of 150 went into family practice. It certainly was a place very different from where I have landed. The majority of students who graduate from here go into primary care with a great number in family practice.

“The University of New Mexico curriculum is very different from what I was raised in at P&S. It is very, very clinical. There is patient contact from the get go. They explore the nature of adult learning here and that direct patient care and the relationships developed toward the patient and the disease process is just as, if not more, important than the disease. I do not know that either is more effective if it excludes the other, and it is interesting to be able to praise and critique both.”

Reuben serves on the Admission Committee of the medical school at UNM. “It gives me a vantage point to see what the various macro and micro issues are in running and selecting students for a state-funded medical school in a poor state as well as the nature of medical education in general...mine, current, East Coast, West Coast and uniquely Southwest... sole school for thousands of square miles, large endowment, no endowment...long traditions, moribund traditions, no traditions.... It has been a blast!”

He has earned awards for his teaching and patient care, is active in his community, and participates in renal and vascular surgery professional development. He describes his 18 years since graduation from P&S by saying “in some respects, not much has happened and a tremendous amount has happened.”

“My experiences have led me to a very deep understanding of how people and patients and life really work. And that is priceless, frustrating, invaluable, occasionally dark and foreboding, and yet I would not have wanted it any other way in retrospect. It has made me rather content.”