Aug. 26, 2016 | Although he’d traveled from Anchorage, Alaska, to Little Rock for the weekend, Tim Coalwell, M.D., felt a little guilty about winning a prize for the longest drive.
“That’s because I didn’t drive,” quipped Coalwell, a 1991 UAMS College of Medicine graduate.
Held Aug. 19-21 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the 2016 Alumni Weekend reunited graduates from all colleges for a weekend of food, fun, friends – and yes, learning.
Sponsors for this year’s Alumni Weekend were ARORA, Simmons Bank, the Arkansas Medical Society, Crothall Healthcare, Arkansas Urology, and Westrock Coffee Company.
Festivities were held in multiple locations across campus. Each college held lunches, showcase lectures and tours focused on their students’ experiences. Approximately 200 alumni attended throughout the weekend, undeterred by rainy weather.
The weekend kicked off with a reception Aug. 19 on the 12th floor of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, co-hosted by UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., and the Chancellor’s Circle, UAMS’ premier annual giving society. Rahn welcomed alumni and thanked them for representing UAMS with pride and distinction.
Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., UAMS provost and chief academic officer, was in attendance, as well as deans from five colleges: Pope L. Moseley, M.D., UAMS executive vice chancellor and dean of the College of Medicine; Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the College of Nursing; Keith M. Olsen, Pharm.D., dean of the College of Pharmacy; Douglas L. Murphy, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions; and James M. Raczynski, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health.
This year’s newest Golden Graduates – those celebrating 50 years or more – were the class of 1966. Alumni and their guests enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres and music by a live jazz trio as a slideshow played, flipping through pages of the 1966 yearbook, the Caduceus. Graduates from the classes of 1956, 1961, and 1966 wore buttons featuring their yearbook photos. Old friends recognized each other immediately and talked into the night.
Far from being partied out, alumni were raring to go Saturday morning. A continental breakfast awaited them at the I. Dodd Wilson Education Building, followed by a welcome from Rahn and Dean Lee, Ed.D., UAMS executive director of alumni and constituent relations.
“Whether you’re a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, or an administrator, your impact is truly felt,” Lee said. “You all are the smart ones – you chose UAMS. You’re a great source of pride for us.”
Alumni from each college broke into groups for two sets of showcase lectures, where they listened and learned about topics from implementation science and precision medicine, to public health in Arkansas and around the globe. Many showcases were extended to accommodate the animated discussions.
“Each year, I take eight fourth-year students on rotations, so I like to stay connected with their professors and their curriculum,” said Kris Saunders, Pharm.D., a 2006 College of Pharmacy graduate. “I was very encouraged to hear about the exciting things that Dean Olsen and the College of Pharmacy are doing.”
Catered lunches followed for each college, hosted by their respective deans. At the College of Medicine luncheon, held in the UAMS Library’s Active Learning Center, Moseley described his role as “a passionate player-coach” and outlined the goals he has for every medical student who obtains a degree at UAMS.
“Our job is to train the next generation of physicians for Arkansas,” Moseley said. “We improve the health of Arkansans not because we take care of every Arkansan here on this campus, but because we produce the physicians like you who take excellent care of Arkansans.”
He noted an analogy he shared with incoming freshmen about Arkansas’ famously flavorful tomatoes and how much better they are than ordinary hothouse tomatoes. “We don’t want our students to be hothouse tomatoes, but real Arkansas tomatoes,” he quipped. “You don’t just look like a doctor; you are a great doctor, because you came from UAMS.”
Kent Westbrook, M.D., distinguished professor in the UAMS College of Medicine, praised the performance of UAMS graduates. “Our students always perform well,” said Westbrook, himself a 1965 College of Medicine graduate. “Be proud of your school, be proud of what’s going on, and be proud of all that we’re going to achieve together.”
A Southern supper capped off the evening. Held on both floors of the I. Dodd Wilson Education Building, alumni and guests were treated to a dinner of fried chicken, barbecue, potato salad, and other fixings. The GroanUps played live downstairs, performing hits from past and present. Alumni hit the dance floor early and often, with several couples dancing for most songs.
Upstairs, the golden graduates reminisced in private rooms. Led by James Y. Suen, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, the College of Medicine class of 1966 passed around a microphone, each taking their turn to give a personal update, or to remember departed friends.
Others, such as Charles Cale, a 1963 College of Medicine graduate, and his wife, Sherlyn, leafed through old annuals, recalling memories. The Cales traveled in from Fayetteville, and had the added bonus of visiting their grandson, who is also studying medicine at UAMS.
“We’ve had a wonderful time,” Sherlyn Cale said, before peeking downstairs at the couples on the dance floor. “We’re going to do a little dancing before we go home,” she said.
Many alumni lingered long after their plates had been cleared, after so many pictures were taken. They simply weren’t ready to say goodbye again, not just yet.
Sunday morning gave them one more opportunity to enjoy themselves in style.
Brunch was served for all Golden Graduates at The Capital Hotel in Little Rock, where several alumni were staying. Rainy weather had finally given way to sunshine.
Seated amongst several lavishly appointed round tables, alumni picked up where they’d left off the night before. Between plates of eggs benedict and thick-cut bacon, and plenty of coffee, old classmates and friends caught up and made jokes. Suen even found time for some magic tricks.
As the table erupted into laughter, it was obvious that 50 years hardly mattered to a group of friends, reunited again.
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; northwest Arkansas regional campus; statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Myeloma Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,834 students, 822 medical residents and six dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.