A Homecoming primer for young alumni

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Ada Stefanescu Schmidt, MDCM'10, with Suzanne Fortier, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor, at one of our newest—and most popular—Homecoming traditons, an all-year, all-school cocktail party. (Photo: Nicolas Morin)

Ada Stefanescu Schmidt, MDCM’10, with Suzanne Fortier, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor, at one of our newest—and most popular—Homecoming traditons, an all-year, all-school cocktail party. (Photo: Nicolas Morin)

“I’m not sure that my contemporaries realize that this tradition exists,” mentioned a recent graduate over Homecoming Weekend in October 2015. “I would have liked to have learned more about it as a student.”

Medicine Focus took this request to heart and offers the following as an explanation of how Homecoming works to those who have not yet experienced it firsthand, using Homecoming 2015 as an example.

It begins with alumni volunteers

Homecoming takes place every year in the fall, but planning starts much earlier, with some class representatives getting the call out to classmates a year or two in advance to ensure a good turnout.

A chance to mark milestone anniversaries

All graduates are welcome to every Homecoming but class reunions tend to be based on five-year milestones, with particular attention paid to 25th and 50th anniversaries.

Medicine classes have a longstanding tradition of organizing a class gift around each reunion. Homecoming is also an opportunity to reflect back on these gifts.

At his Jubilee reunion, Marvin Wexler, BSc, MDCM’65, MSc—who has been Class Representative for the Medicine Class of 1965 since graduation—updated his classmates on their collective giving. Overall, they had contributed more than $500,000 to the Alma Mater Fund. Since 2000, they had sent eight students on rotations in Uganda, Rwanda, Haiti and elsewhere.

Different programs have different traditions

To mention just some of the activities that are held most years:

  • Dean’s Open House at 3605 de la Montagne (graduates of the MDCM program)
  • Wine and cheese (SPOT)
  • Afternoon tea (Ingram School of Nursing)
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At Homecoming 2015, Janet Ritchie, MDCM’90, received a standing ovation for her presentation, “Living Healthily with Multiple Sclerosis.”

One favourite tradition of our MDCM alumni is the CME seminar led by the 25th anniversary class. In 2015, Janet Ritchie, MDCM’90, received a standing ovation for her presentation, “Living Healthily with Multiple Sclerosis.”

“I’ve been team physician to the Alouettes for 21 years now and the Montreal Canadiens for 14,” said Vincent Lacroix, BSc, MDCM’90, during his talk on ethics, medicine and elite sport. Lacroix, who in his work with the Canadiens is following in the footsteps of McGillians Donald Kinnear, BSc, MDCM’52, and Dr. David Mulder, MSc, explained the interprofessional nature of sports medicine teams, which also include physiotherapists and other health care specialists. “There is even an Als opthalmologist.”

Individual classes also organize different activities each year. For example, in 2015:

  • The Medicine Class of 1965 tried something new with a group discussion called “Life Lessons” over lunch at the Faculty Club.
  • The Medicine Class of 1990 organized a hockey game at the McConnell Arena.
  • The Nursing Class of 1970 attended a cocktail party and supper at a private home as well as a lunch at a restaurant.

For the past couple of years, a new tradition has taken hold where all graduates of all program and schools gather together one evening for an all-school, all-year cocktail reception.

An opportunity to…

Share memories of student days

“I was chairman of the sports committee. We had a track meet with Queen’s. I  encouraged everyone to participate. There was a point for participation. We had so much participation that we won outright,” reminisced Max Patterson, MDCM’55.

Reflect on paths taken

“I left here with Alan Ross [MDCM’27] who led a team to Nairobi in 1964. I went for one year and stayed for 48,” said Colin Forbes, BSc, MDCM’55. “We taught medicine in the villages. We were trying to get people so that children would not die of preventable diseases like measles, tetanus, etc.”

Said Patterson about Forbes, “He’s probably done more for medicine in the undeveloped world than anyone I know.”

This mantle is upheld by more recent graduates like Allan Okrainec, BSc, MDCM’00, who, post-graduation, helped establish a medical training centre in Donetsk, Ukraine, which unfortunately, has since been destroyed.

Remember classmates and mentors

Where to hear the best stories. (Photo: ManLi Que)

Where to hear the best stories. (Photo: ManLi Que)

For our Medicine alumni, a favourite Homecoming tradition is to gather around the class mosaic to tell stories about classmates and professors.

“This chap [Jim Mitchener, BSc, MDCM’55], played for the Montreal Alouettes. And the guy next to him [John W. Martin, MDCM’55, also known as Yohannes Workneh] was the personal physician to the emperor Haile Selassie I, who was a direct descendant of the Queen of Sheba,” said Patterson, who also pointed out “their” Dean, G. Lyman Duff. “Every Saturday morning, he held a pathology seminar, which was so entertaining that any McGill grad that happened to be in town attended.”

Remember the greats

One memory that is common to many of our graduates from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, across programs, is that of Dr. Wilder Penfield. “Dr. Penfield talked to us about MS,” said Cecile Lee Belanger, Dip (P Th)’65.

“The very first operation I saw was Penfield operating,” said Patterson.

Reflect on how times have changed

“The BSc(PT) course started in 1987. I was one of two people who did the class,” said Gloria Gilbert, DIP(P TH)’66, BSc(PT)’67, adding about SPOT in the ’60s: “We wore old-fashioned nurses uniforms that had eyelets.”

“When I chose psychiatry, one of my thoughts was that probably more would happen in that field than any other. And I think that’s true. We know a lot more about the brain and how it works,” said Bernard Foster, MDCM’65.

Visit old haunts

Out-of-town alumni have a list of places they would like to return to, on campus and off, including:

  • the Meredith Annex
  • the McIntyre building
  • Strathcona
  • Wilson Hall
  • ampitheatres
  • Schwartz’s
  • Mount Royal

Discover new facilities

Groups from Medicine and Nursing went on tours of the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning. Some groups also visited the new Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre.

Learn how health sciences education is changing

At the 2015 Open House, MDCM alumni attended mini talks on a variety of subjects, including the new MDCM curriculum. “By the end of their first year, every student is required to have submitted a research proposal. In the second year, they are required to carry out the proposal. Research is codified in the curriculum in a way it never was before,” Colin Chalk, MDCM’84, Director of Curricular Development at the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Associate Professor, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, told the audience.

A couple of alumni came to Homecoming seeking information on the new MDCM curriculum to help them in their efforts to set up new medical schools in the developing world.

Dana Witmer, MDCM'80, who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was interested in learning more about the new MDCM curriculum. (Photo: Anne Chudobiak)

Dana Witmer, MDCM’80, who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was interested in learning more about the new MDCM curriculum. (Photo: Anne Chudobiak)

“I’m the university physician for a university with 800 students. This month, they opened a new school of medicine,” said Dana Witmer, MDCM’80, who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she is in charge of a pediatric department of a referral hospital.

In another talk, on Wellness & Resilience, Stella Miller, Wellness Consultant at the Faculty of Medicine’s MedWell office, explained initiatives to increase access to counselling for students and residents, and to make it easier for residents to eat well in the hospitals.

Celebrate the contribution of faculty graduates

The Medicine Alumni Global Awards are presented at Homecoming. The ceremony is private, but alumni and faculty are encouraged to nominate classmates the spring before the event.

Now that you know what Homecoming is…

This is just one snapshot of a constantly evolving tradition. We hope that you will put your mark on Homecoming when your year comes around.

At Homecoming 2016, on Thursday, October 27 to Sunday, October 30, 2016, we welcome everyone, but celebrate milestone reunions for alumni whose class year ends in 1 or 6.

In 2017, we welcome all, with a special focus on graduates whose year ends in 2 or 7. Save the date: Thursday, October 26 to Sunday, October 29, 2017.

For more information, please contact Cynthia Liu at 514-398-6044 or cynthia.liu@mcgill.ca

 

 

 

 

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