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Reunion 2008 brings together members of first medical school graduating class

By Sharon Gray

Dr. Oleh Waler was one of six members of the Class of 1973, the medical school’s first graduating class, who attended the Medical Graduates’ Society Reunion 2008. There were about 95 graduates who attended events over the weekend of Aug. 1-3. In addition to the class of 1973, reunions were held for the Classes of 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998.

“As graduates of our medical school, you are our sustaining strength, our ambassadors,” said Dean James Rourke at the opening reception the evening of Aug. 1. “You represent us to your patients, to your colleagues and to the community. We are very proud of your accomplishments.”

Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president of Memorial, brought greetings from the university and some personal reflections.

“As some of you will know, I have a personal connection to the early years of the schools as my father came here to practice medicine in the early 1970s. He brought me and the rest of the family along and that was the start of what has been a lifelong connection to Newfoundland and Labrador for me.”

Dr. Campbell noted that the university’s new strategic plan contemplates a growth in enrolment to 20,500 and research to over $100 million a year. “The medical school will grow with that. In fact, it will increase by about 25 per cent over the next few years in terms of students and facilities, and probably much more than that in terms of research.”

Dr. Bridget Picco, president of the Medical Graduates’ Society, thanked Dr. Brian Payton for his gift of a historical DVD for all the reunion attendees. She also thanked Dr. Rosemary Hutchison, Class of 1973, for her donation of photos from the early days of the medical school.

A highlight of the opening reception was the presentation of five Dr. Wallace Ingram Awards for New Faculty. A total of $38,000 was raised for the awards from the reunion classes.

“Dr. Ingram is well known to most of us alumni as our mentor, our teacher, and an outstanding endocrinologist,” said Dr. Picco. “The Wally Ingram Award is annually funded by the contributions of the re-union alumni and provides start-up research grants for new faculty members.”

Dr. Rodney Russell, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, received $10,000. The main focus of his research is on the molecular biology of the Hepatitis C virus in order to identify novel targets for anti-HCV therapy. “It is hoped that these efforts will contribute to the development of novel antiviral drugs to help fight this disease,” said Dr. Russell.

Dr. Michelle Ploughman, clinical research scientist with Eastern Health and professional associate with the Faculty of Medicine also received an award of $10,000. These funds will be used for the second part of a research study investigating health, lifestyle and aging with multiple sclerosis. “Findings from this study will directly benefit people with MS, becoming part of evidence-based primary health wellness services within Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Ploughman.

Dr. Tracey Brown-Maher, clinical assistant professor of dermatology, received $6,000 for the multidisciplinary wound care clinic which she co-ordinates weekly at the L.A. Miller Centre.

Dr. Wendy Young, Canada Research Chair in Health Aging, will use her $6,000 Dr. Wallace Ingram Award to help generate knowledge that may improve the quality of life of seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador, in jurisdictions across Canada and elsewhere.

Dr. Weldon Bonnell, child and adolescent psychiatrist, received a $6,000 award for the project “Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in the Treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” The goal of this research project is “to conduct a definitive clinical trial that addresses this question in a manner that can produce information which will have an impact on clinical practice,” said Dr. Bonnell.