Class of 1969 Shares Memories of Med School

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Members of the SMHS class of 1969 sitting together and smiling

Nancy Briggs, MD ’69, recalls walking into the student lounge during her second year of medical school where she encountered the powerful odor emanating from first-year medical students who had just finished in the anatomy lab. 

“I went home and asked my parents, ‘Did I smell that bad last year?’ ” she shared with her classmates gathered for the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) H Street Society Reunion Dinner. “They said ‘yes!’ But they figured I couldn’t do anything about it so they didn’t say anything [at the time].”

This year, SMHS welcomed back the medical school class of 1969 to celebrate its 50th reunion and induction into the H Street Society during the GW MD Reunion Weekend. The class gathered for dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C., and caught up with one another on where their journeys have taken them and rehashed fond memories from GW.

Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, invited the class members to share their memories from medical school before they were presented with their H Street Society medals.

Briggs was one of six women who graduated in the Class of 1969 and said she wanted to be a doctor from a young age. “The reason I became a doctor was because my pediatrician in the late ’40s and early ’50s was a woman,” she said. “She was my role model. I wanted to be a pediatrician just like her.”

However, Briggs decided that pediatrics was not the path for her and began a long and rewarding career in emergency medicine, serving on the faculty at the University of Rochester the year the institution graduated its first class of emergency medicine residents.

Peter Giovan, MD ’69, made his way to SMHS a little differently than Briggs and some of his classmates. The California native was a chemistry and physics major at the California Institute of Technology doing lab work when he decided to pursue a medical degree.

“I’m a West Coast boy,” he said. “I showed up at GW in the student lounge in a pair of white jeans, a madras shirt, and my surf board. The guys in the lounge were wearing three piece suits!”

As each person shared memories from their days roaming the halls of the medical school, they each also spoke about what they learned and carried with them after graduation. For Giovan, who went on to a career in orthopaedics, the lesson he learned from GW was an important one.

“I didn’t know anything about people,” he said. “GW taught me about people.”

SMHS established the H Street Society in 2012 to offer older alumni a next step in their association with GW. Named after the medical school’s home prior to 1973, at 1335 H Street NW, the H Street Society honors the school’s distinguished alumni and hopes to strengthen their connection with the GW community. H Street Society members are invited back each year to welcome the newest 50th anniversary class into the Society.  

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