The morning of GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) annual M.D. Program White Coat and Honor Code Ceremony greets every parent of an incoming M.D. student with a combination of jubilance and pride. For the school’s legacy families, however, the moment is especially poignant as they welcome their children into the same community that helped shape their own medical careers. In recognition of their expanding connection to GW and SMHS, incoming members of the M.D. program Class of 2020 and their alumni families, as well as second-year students in the Adopt-a-Doc program and their adoptive families, gathered over brunch to share stories of their days at GW.
The brunch, sponsored by the SMHS Office of Development and Alumni Relations, is meant to celebrate the incoming students and their alumni parents and family members, but the wide array of M.D. alumni, residency alumni, and faculty members also serves as a tangible example of the values and attitudes SMHS seeks to instill.
“My dad never missed a single event at school. That’s perhaps the biggest thing that stands out in my memory,” recalled incoming M.D. student Lauren Jacobs of her father, Ronald Jacobs, M.D., RESD ’86. Lauren, who came to GW following a research position at Memorial Sloan Kettering, joined the SMHS Class of 2020 with her younger sister, Erica. She added, “My dad really pushed us to find a school that emphasized balance, and how important it was to have family and medicine and bring that to our patients. And how many people get to go to medical school with their sibling?”
As the incoming students, like Lauren, and their alumni families described their memories and experiences, what emerged as consistent themes were community, balance, and perspective.
“I grew up hearing about what a great community GW had, particularly in the medical school, and how much the faculty want the students to succeed, and of course the opportunities available from being in Washington, D.C.,” said incoming student Benjamin Hariri. “After interview day and second-look day meeting students and deans, I was really drawn to GW.”
Although Hariri looked at a variety of schools, he picked GW, the alma mater of his father, Suhail Hariri, ’93. “He decided that GW was the best fit for him,” Suhail said. “I am very proud.”
The elder Hariri added that if he could pass along to his son one aspect of his experience as an M.D. student at GW, it would be the emphasis on the human side of medicine. “That will tell you how to take care of patients,” he explained. “The textbook you can get at many schools, [and] you can receive a good medical education at many schools, but the difference is that at GW you’ll learn that human touch.”
Paul Dangerfield, and his wife Lesley, earned the laurel as the family with the most extensive ties to GW. Dangerfield earned a bachelor’s degree and medical degree from GW in ’89 and ’95, respectively, and completed his residency in anesthesiology in 2002 before joining the faculty in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine. Naturally, he also was born at GW Hospital. Even the couple’s daughter, Stratton, has a lengthy history at the university. She earned a B.A in psychology from GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 2015; before that, Stratton was a frequent visitor to campus from her earliest days, having been born during her father’s first week of first-semester finals.
“Everyone wants to believe that the med school they went to was good, and I think the medical school I went to is good,” Dangerfield said, “but having been a resident here and a faculty member for a long time, since 1999, I think [GW] has really become a great medical school.”