Alumni Reflect on Bond with Classmates at Legacy Brunch
Before the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) welcomed the incoming MD Class of 2022 during the White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 11, 11 first-year medical students, their alumni parent, and family members gathered in the Weingold Executive Conference Center for the annual SMHS Legacy Brunch.
The SMHS Office of Development and Alumni Relations created the annual event in 2010 to honor ongoing alumni connections to the school and to celebrate family legacies in medicine at GW. The brunch offers alumni the opportunity to reflect and share the role SMHS played in their own medical school experience.
“To all of the parents who are alumni, it’s great to have you back. We love celebrating the connectedness between you and your kids who are now following in your footsteps and coming to medical school here,” Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, said during his opening remarks.
Akman, also an SMHS legacy student, shared how wonderful it has been to have served his alma mater for so many years. He encouraged alumni to share some of their most powerful memories and invited the incoming students to share their thoughts as well.
“One of the things I remember most was the amazing group of friends I developed,” said Stafford Goldstein, MD ’76, RESD ’83, who is still close friends with many of his classmates. He reflected on the comradery built by studying in the library late into the night and the many hours spent working together in the gross anatomy lab. “It’s just amazing. I am best friends with one of my classmates and speak to him every Friday night.” He also made another lifelong connection while at SMHS — his wife. Goldstein’s attending introduced the couple.
The close ties built with their medical school classmates was a common theme expressed by many alumni during the brunch.
“My experience here was just incredible — the faculty and students,” said Evan Cohn, MD ’92. He is still well connected with many of his classmates. “GW’s a great institution and [Washington, D.C.] is a great place to be. I was so excited when my daughter, Ellen, got in. I know she is going to have a great experience like I did.”
Cindy Gherman, MD ’90, also built very close relationships with her fellow medical students, and, in fact, she and her husband had dinner with many of them the night before the brunch and White Coat Ceremony. “It was just great seeing them all again,” said Gherman, now a practicing pediatrician in Cleveland, Ohio. Beaming that her son Zack is starting his medical career at her alma mater, Gherman expressed confidence that GW would equip him with a depth of knowledge of clinical skills and procedures, and a foundation in compassionate care.
Fellow classmate, Louise Glaser, MD ’90, shared a ”terrifying and hilarious” experience during her first week of medical school — learning how to draw blood by practicing on each other. “It was actually more terrifying to be the drawer than the one being poked. We didn’t want to hurt each other,” she recalled. Glaser is thrilled her daughter, Kate, will be starting at SMHS to carry on the legacy. Kate’s sister, Emily, will also join the GW family this fall as she pursues her master’s in public health.
“I remember playing Dr. Kent at Follies,” said Stephen DeFreitas, MD ’98, tapping into fun medical school memories. His son, incoming first-year medical student Cory, also remembers the event.
At 3 or 4 years old, Cory’s father found a part for him on stage at Follies. “I remember I was supposed to walk out on stage when nudged by my dad and yell, ‘Yee-haaw!’” explained Cory. The nudge came. Cory looked out over the crowd and didn’t move. “I thought – ‘no way.’” Cory is looking forward to creating more positive medical school memories during the next four years at SMHS. “I am pretty sure that will happen,” he continued. He and his wife are expecting a daughter this November. They are still considering whether to include her in future Follies.
As the brunch ended, alumni were still clinging to medical school memories and to those last precious moments they could share together with their children on the momentous day. The SMHS Office of Alumni Relations organized an impromptu tour of the Clinical Learning and Simulation Skills Center – likely one of the first shared medical school experiences between parent and child.