November 8, 1996

Classmates, roommates renew ties at Reunion ’96

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Drs. Floyd Denny Jr. (left) and Rembert Burgess discuss their days as roommates at VUSM.

Classmates, roommates renew ties at Reunion '96

Drs. George W. Holcomb Jr. (left), James O. Finney Jr. and Jack B. McCallie at the recent VUSM Reunion 1996

Drs. George W. Holcomb Jr. (left), James O. Finney Jr. and Jack B. McCallie at the recent VUSM Reunion 1996

Drs. Rembert O. Burgess and Floyd W. Denny Jr. were the closest of friends from 1942 until 1946. They were classmates as well as roommates at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Half a century later they reunited at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's Reunion 1996, held on Oct. 25.

Denny bent over to hug the wheelchair-confined Burgess, then moments later wheeled Burgess into Light Hall as the classes of 1946 and 1947 were inducted into the Medical Quinq Society – those celebrating the 50th anniversaries of their graduations.

"We haven't seen each other in years. It was wonderful," Denny said. "Dr. Burgess was a year ahead of me in college. He talked me into coming to Vanderbilt to medical school."

The former classmates were among several alumni who attended the three days of reunion activities.

Members of the group were greeted on Friday by Dr. Roscoe R. Robinson, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. Robinson welcomed them back to a medical center that "looks very different from what you remember.

"It's a much more complex organization than was originally in place. But we remain constant and firm to those traditions that have served our institution well – quality in all we do to train physicians, care for patients, and commitment to original research," Robinson said.

"This is a very special time, one to reflect on where we've come from and where we're headed. I hope you will agree with me that by any criteria, the past 10 years have been good years for us. We're off to a good start as we look to the future, despite the fact that many challenges lie ahead as we continue our preparation for entry into the new environment of health care delivery. I perhaps take greatest pride of all in the fact that this institution has maintained a major commitment to teaching and wonderful concern and caring for the prosperity of the individual medical student," he said.

Robinson told the group that Vanderbilt has grown by leaps and bounds since he arrived here 14 years ago.

There have been 22 new department chairs appointed since 1982 and searches are under way for five new chairs, including one for the medical center's newest department – family medicine.

The full time faculty has grown from 690 in 1990 to 921 today.

VUMC also ranks 14th in the nation among research-oriented medical schools, according to U.S. News and World Report magazine, and four of the medical center's basic science departments rank in the top seven among all peer departments in the country in receipt of total research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Those attending Reunion 1996 were treated to scientific sessions of various alumni, tours of the Annette and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library, one of the medical center's newest buildings, and an evening dinner and dance at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. Many also watched Vanderbilt battle the University of South Carolina at the Homecoming Game, then attended various class parties at the homes of Nashville alumni on Saturday evening.

Three were honored as Distinguished Alumni at the All-Alumni Lunch honoring the new Quinqs.

Those receiving the awards were Drs. Blair E. Batson, professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine; Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Bob and Vivian Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital; and James B.D. Mark, professor of Surgery and head of the division of Thoracic Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

"I'm thankful to many people in many different institutions for whatever success I have achieved," Mark said in accepting his award. "But two stand out – my parents, who were tremendous examples, and my Vanderbilt medical education. Student satisfaction was just as true when I received my education as it is today. I'm deeply thrilled and honored with this award today."

Dr. Jack B. McCallie, MD'84, a Chattanooga internist who is the new president of the Medical Alumni Association, said getting together with fellow alumni emphasizes the importance of tradition at VUSM.

"It is very meaningful to see Vanderbilt doing such a great job pushing itself forward into the future, but you also see the significance of great tradition when you look into the past. A perfect example of this is honoring distinguished alumni."