This fall, alumni from as far away as India returned to Westwood to celebrate the inaugural Alumni Reunion Weekend with the classes of ’58, ’68, ’78, ’88, ’93 (celebrating its 25-year reunion; the Class of ’98 held its own reunion in June) and ’08. The last time the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Medical Alumni Association (MAA) held a large-scale all-class-style reunion was in August 2011, during the medical school’s 60th anniversary. However, increasing use of digital communications and social media resulted in a slump in attendance at subsequent reunion events, which became less frequent.
But outreach to the MAA board of directors and to alumni demonstrated that there still was a desire to hold such expansive reunions. Dana Schmitz, alumni affairs director, and MAA reunion committee board members Vena Ricketts, MD ’76, and Gelareh Gabayan, MD ’04, set out to revive the tradition. The resulting Alumni Reunion Weekend took place over the weekend of October 12, 2018.
Sonia Krishna, MD ’08 (RES ’11, FEL ’13), and her husband Vamsi Krishna, MD (RES ’10), came from Austin, Texas, to attend the weekend. Not only did Dr. Krishna and her husband spend time bonding with her fellow classmates, but they also established relationships and potential mentorships with alumni from other classes. “I hope more young alumni get involved in events to deepen our networks for school of medicine graduates from UCLA,” Dr. Krishna says.
“The reunion has led to some new professional and personal connections that I hope to continue,” adds Deborah Lehman, MD ’88, assistant dean for student affairs. She credits her experiences at UCLA for enriching her education, career trajectory — and even her personal life. “I met my husband (Marc Wishingrad, MD ’89) in medical school!” she says.
While medical school and residency sweethearts gathered with fellow MAA members, several alumni recruited their entire families to join them for the weekend. Second-year medical student Benjamin Kartub pitched in to guide a tour of Geffen Hall and the Center for the Health Sciences for his father-in-law Guy Mayeda, MD ’88, and Dr. Mayeda’s former classmates. “I hope Ben has as many memorable experiences at UCLA and leaves with as many lifelong friends as I did 30 years ago,” Dr. Mayeda says. “It was a fun and proud experience for our entire family to have Ben lead the tour of the medical school for our group. How often does that opportunity occur for a UCLA MD alum!”
Looping in yet another generation of Bruins, Robert Harway, MD ’58, brought along his grandson and current UCLA undergraduate Robert Sada for the medical school tour, and he later accompanied Sada’s roommate on piano during the Saturday night jazz quartet.
Feedback from the weekend was positive, boding well for future events. “Our goal is quite simple: to continuously increase and deepen our engagement with our amazing alumni community,” says Clarence Braddock III, MD, vice dean for education. “Bringing back Alumni Weekend was a fabulous example of a meaningful way to bring our alumni together, both to revisit the best of their experiences here and to re-introduce them to our school, our leadership, and our mission. It was so wonderful to meet alumni from so many years and a privilege to bear witness to the joy they experienced reconnecting with classmates and colleagues.”
The next Alumni Reunion Weekend is scheduled for October 11-13, 2019, for the classes of ’59, ’69, ’79, ’89, ’94 (25th year), ’99 and ’09. Registration information will be released to the Alumni Affairs website in spring of 2019.