UAMS Graduates Reunite and Reminisce at Alumni Weekend 2019

By Benjamin Waldrum

More than 100 UAMS alumni and guests, many from this year’s Golden Graduates, the Class of 1969, reconnected with old friends and colleagues, making the most of their time together.

Charles Cale, M.D., COM '64, his wife Sherlyn, and UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson at the Friday night reception.

Charles Cale, M.D., COM ’64, his wife Sherlyn, and UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson at the Friday night reception.Image by Bryan Clifton

Sponsors for this year’s event were the Chancellor’s Circle, ARORA, Arkansas Medical Society, Arkansas Urology, and Westrock Coffee Company.

Festivities kicked off Friday night with a welcome reception, sponsored by the Chancellor’s Circle. Alumni enjoyed wine, heavy hors d’oeuvres, music from The Real Thing jazz trio, and spectacular views from the 12th floor of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, welcomed back alumni and guests, and thanked them for their commitment to the university and to making Arkansas a healthy place to live.

“We are working hard to honor your commitment to UAMS and to ensure that the footsteps that you have made are reflected in the future of this great institution,” Patterson said. “We are here for a better state of health, and we have gotten there because of the work you have done, taking what you’ve learned and putting it into practice. We couldn’t be more proud of you, and as we continue to grow and prosper, we want you to be proud of what we do here.”

College of Pharmacy Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D., Kristen Belew, Pharm.D., COP '16, and her husband Barrett at Friday night's reception.

College of Pharmacy Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D., Kristen Belew, Pharm.D., COP ’16, and her husband Barrett at Friday night’s reception.Image by Benjamin Waldrum

Patterson recognized UAMS leaders in attendance, which included Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., UAMS executive vice chancellor  and College of Medicine dean; Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D., College of Pharmacy dean; Mark Williams, Ph.D., College of Public Health dean; Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N., College of Nursing dean; and Brian Gittens, Ed.D., MPA, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Golden Graduates were given commemorative medallions with red and blue ribbons and wore buttons with their old photos from the UAMS Caduceus. Many lingered near composite photos of their graduating classes, identifying friends past and present.

Several alumni were bowled over by UAMS’ transformation over the years, from a small medical school with a charity hospital into a health sciences university and research leader.

“The thing that struck me when I first came back was that the campus still had the same address on West Markham Street, but how it had changed from 1969 was unbelievable,” said Dennis Moore, Pharm.D., COP ’69 and director of the UAMS North Central Regional Campus. “The take-home for me was the extent of which there’s been investment in health care training and care, and of course the technology that we have now is just mind boggling. The institution is a wonderful resource for whatever happens next.”

College of Medicine Dean Christopher Westfall, M.D., FACS, Erick Messias, M.D. and Billy Thomas, M.D., present the COM Dean's Distinguished Alumni Award to Myra Jones Romain, who accepted on behalf of her late mother, Edith Irby Jones, M.D., COM '52.

College of Medicine Dean Christopher Westfall, M.D., FACS, Erick Messias, M.D. and Billy Thomas, M.D., present the COM Dean’s Distinguished Alumni Award to Myra Jones Romain, who accepted on behalf of her late mother, Edith Irby Jones, M.D., COM ’52.Image by Sam Giannavola

When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their 1969 moon landing, it was an example of how far technology had come. On Saturday morning, alums got up-close and personal with the latest tech and training that is making a giant leap for the future of medicine.

The day began with a look at UAMS’ new Sectra Table, a 4K-resolution virtual dissection table that allows students to explore human anatomy in 3D with simple gestures common on the average smartphone. Alumni listened to David L. Davies, Ph.D., and Kevin D. Phelan, Ph.D., who co-direct the Division of Clinical Anatomy in the College of Medicine, as they demonstrated how the table works.

Afterward, alumni found their way to the UAMS Simulation Center, and got to resuscitate computerized, lifelike manikins from cardiac arrest, simulate a live birth and take turns at virtual laparoscopic surgery. Travis Hill, executive director of simulation education; Mike Wallace, outreach coordinator; and Jerry Halpain, healthcare simulation educator, guided small groups of alumni through the same types of training that students and residents receive.

Catered luncheons with each college dean allowed alums a chance to learn about the latest and greatest in each of their specialties. The College of Health Professions celebrated 50 years of innovation with its Dental Hygiene program, bringing together graduates from years past. Afterward, alumni came together to beat the summer heat with an informal ice cream social.

College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N., presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Michael Carter, B.S.N., CON '69.

College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., R.N., presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Michael Carter, B.S.N., CON ’69.Image by Sam Giannavola

Edith Irby Jones, M.D., COM ’52, was posthumously honored with the College of Medicine’s Dean’s Distinguished Alumni Award at its noon luncheon. Jones, who passed away July 15, was the first African American to enroll in an all-white medical school in the South, and went on to a distinguished career as a doctor, educator and philanthropist.

Myra Jones Romain, Jones’ daughter, accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.

“Mother used to bring me to the reunions, and then afterward I started bringing her – the last time was her 60th,” Romain said. “I just want to say thank you so much. She loved UAMS and wanted it to thrive, and I hope as alumni you continue to give back. That’s how the university grows and continues to train doctors, and we need them all – black, white, and all the colors.”

Michael Carter, B.S.N., CON ’69, received the College of Nursing’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Carter was an early nurse practitioner and a strong advocate for nurse practitioners with education at the doctoral level. He has worked with the Australian government to establish nursing practitioner roles and educational programs.

Concetta Baker, CON '69, and her husband, Murl Baker Jr., COM '71, attended the Saturday night Golden Grad dinner at the Capital Hotel.

Concetta Baker, CON ’69, and her husband, Murl Baker Jr., COM ’71, attended the Saturday night Golden Grad dinner at the Capital Hotel.Image by Bryan Clifton

“We were the children of the Sixties, and we were directed to go forth and change the way the world works, because the world needed our activities,” Carter said. “I came to UAMS because it was one of the few in the nation at the time that would accept men as nursing students. We were educated here with the notion that it’s our obligation to return to the citizens of this state the best care that we can provide, and to do it in colleagueship with our classmates in all specialties.”

Alumni dressed in their finest for Saturday night’s celebration dinner at the Capital Hotel, where they enjoyed pre-dinner cocktail service and fine dining with views of a radiant sunset. Groups quickly spilled out into the hallways after dessert to take selfies and class pictures.

Joel Spragins, M.D., COM ’64 and his wife, Jeanne, were a fixture at every weekend event, having traveled from their home in Shelby, North Carolina. He spoke fondly of his time at UAMS, living on campus and taking gross anatomy with old colleagues. The only thing missing, he said, was his old dormitory, which had been demolished years ago.

“We’ve enjoyed our time here,” Spragins said. “Lots of good memories.”