Dr. Robert Kass, the David Hosack Professor of Pharmacology at P&S, introduced the guest speaker, Robert Lefkowitz’66, at the Alumni Council dinner on March 23, 2011. Dr. Lefkowitz is the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University. “Bob Lefkowitz,” said Dr. Kass, “is someone who changed our knowledge of the most important pathway of the human body.” A cardiologist-turned basic researcher, Dr. Lefkowitz is best known for his discovery of the seven-membrane spanning structure of adrenergic receptors. Pharmaceuticals that target these receptors, including beta-blockers, ulcer drugs, cortisone, antihistamines, and others, account for 60 percent to 70 percent of all prescription drugs used in the world.
In remarks titled “A Reluctant Scientist, or A Tale of Two Callings,” Dr. Lefkowitz recounted the highlights of his remarkable life. Born in the Bronx, he was inspired by his family practitioner to aspire to become a physician. Intending to pursue a career in cardiology, Dr. Lefkowitz recalled that “at P&S I avoided any opportunity to do research. To me, medicine was like a priesthood. I always thought it was the highest and noblest thing you could do in life.” But a stint as associate in research, or one of the so-called “Yellow Berets,” at the NIH made him, as he put it tongue in cheek, “addicted to data.” Pursuing a residency in medicine at Harvard, he felt a craving for the thrill of research and subsequently accepted an offer to join the faculty at Duke. And though he ultimately turned to research, he still feels that “being a physician is just the greatest thing in the world. When I write down my occupation, I still write down physician.” Reflecting on the keys to his success, he observed: “The same things that made me successful as a physician made me good at research. The four keys are focus, focus, focus, and you can figure out the fourth,” he quipped. “Persistence also helped.”
Parents’ Day Program
At the annual Parents’ Day Program on April 16, 2011, proud progenitors and loved ones of admitted students filled the P&S Alumni Auditorium for a kind of anatomy lesson about medical student life. Alumni Association president Donald O. Quest’70 stood in as master of ceremonies for Dean Lee Goldman, who could not attend. “Like Dean Goldman,” Dr. Quest told parents, “the leadership of the medical school are all practicing clinicians.” Speakers from the school administration included Lisa A. Mellman, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs; Stephen Nicholas, M.D., associate dean for admissions; Hilda Y. Hutcherson, M.D., associate dean for diversity; Ronald E. Drusin’66, vice dean for education; and Ellen Spilker, director of student financial planning.
"As a parent myself,” said Dr. Mellman, “I’m always glad when I get to go to my kids’ parents’ days, because that’s the only way I get to know what’s going on. When I’m asked what we do in Student Affairs, the brief definition is that we cover everything in student life except the content of the curriculum.” Dr. Mellman spoke about several topics, including the Center for Student Wellness, which she described as “an effective model for the country.” “Learning in medical school is like drinking from a firehose,” she observed. “We want to try to help students deal with the massive amounts of information.”
Dr. Nicholas gave inspiring remarks on the admissions process. Dr. Drusin discussed highlights of the new curriculum. And Ms. Spilker explained how P&S helps parents finance it all.
Faculty presenters included Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D., professor of clinical medicine (photographed with Donald Quest’70), who spoke on narrative medicine, the program she helped found, and Paul Lee, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine, who described the residency selection process. The program was rounded out by privileged observations about student life from students themselves – Megan Jessiman’11, Nat Langer’11, and Pamela Good’12.
The student a capella singing group, The Ultrasounds, entertained parents at the luncheon that followed.