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October 2006 Archives

Thumbnail image for Medical student Amanda Noska (left) and the doctors at GHESKIO, a free HIV/AIDS clinic in Haiti. (Photo: Amanda Noska)

Following his retirement from the school in 1991, Stauffer and his late wife, Donna, found another way to share that passion by making a gift to the school that was used to establish the Lee and Donna Stauffer Scholarship.

Lee Stauffer has continued to support the scholarship and in November 2005, he contributed $25,000 to the fund. That gift was eligible for a University of Minnesota President's Scholarship Match, which will double the scholarship's impact.

Thumbnail image for Medical student Amanda Noska (left) and the doctors at GHESKIO, a free HIV/AIDS clinic in Haiti. (Photo: Amanda Noska)

Before an old army acquaintance asked him to volunteer his medical services abroad, Philip Gardner, M.D., hadn't given much thought to doing international humanitarian work. But because of his friend's request, Gardner traveled to Guatemala in 1994. And he's been hooked ever since on helping others in developing countries.

An alumnus of the Department of Ophthalmology's residency program, Gardner has taken about 10 two-week volunteer trips to Nuevo Progreso, Guatemala, over the last decade. He joins a team of volun- teer surgeons from the United States and Canada, performing procedures that are generally not available to many people in third-world countries.

Thumbnail image for Known to many as “Sully,” longtime educator W. Albert Sullivan, M.D., believed that future physicians should be not only intelligent but also well-rounded individuals.

Sullivan worked in the dean's office for more than 20 years, lastly as associate dean of student affairs from 1973 to 1990. He also was an associate professor in the Department of Surgery. Conversant in 15 languages, Sullivan traveled extensively, enjoyed baking French bread, and—most important—never hesitated to help a medical student in need.

One alumnus was so grateful for the support Sullivan showed him and his family through difficult times during medical school that he set up a scholarship fund in Sullivan's name. This donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, has been contributing to the Albert Sullivan Scholarship Fund for more than 15 years.

Thumbnail image for Daniel Vallera, Ph.D., received funding to move new drugs he engineered into clinical trials.

When Jeff Lion's son, Josh, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at 18 months old, doctors gave Josh a good chance of survival. When Josh's cancer came back at age 5½, doctors were not nearly so optimistic.

"When Josh first got sick, they told me there was a 75 percent chance that he'd be OK, so I didn't really sweat it," Lion says. "Then when he relapsed and they told me he wasn't going to make it, I started sweating it."

John Ohlfest, Ph.D.

A central theme has emerged in the nation's medical research community over the past few years: Solutions to the most complex biomedical questions result from collaborative research.

That theme is forefront on the mind of John Ohlfest, Ph.D., the University of Minnesota's director of translational gene therapy and director of the University's gene and stem cell core laboratory. A "core" lab describes a research space at the University that is accessible to all disciplines for a variety of scientific objectives. Some discoveries‚ for example‚ could aid researchers looking for treatments for Alzheimer's disease‚ Parkinson's disease‚ and ataxia.

Brian Simmons enjoys a day on the links at the Karen’s Hope Ataxia Benefit.

Thanks to nearly 400 participants at two summer golf tournaments‚ another $90‚000 has been raised for ataxia research at the University of Minnesota.

The fifth annual Karen's Hope Ataxia Benefit‚ which was held June 19‚ brought 211 golfers to the Oak Marsh Golf Course in Oakdale and raised about $50‚000 for the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC).

On August 22‚ 178 golfers at the 9th annual Bob Allison Ataxia Golf Classic at the Owatonna Golf Club raised a projected $20‚200 for the

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In the history of Minnesota State Senator Ann Rest's family‚ ataxia has been a "tragic challenge." Rest's former husband battled hereditary ataxia‚ as did his grandmother‚ mother‚ uncle‚ and sister.

Rest wanted to get involved with the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC) to help discover a better future for other people with ataxia.

"For many ataxia patients‚ this disease can be a discouraging progression of increasing disability‚" she says. "But those of us who are family members focus on the future and possibilities for a cure or treatments of symptoms that improve the quality of life."

The Grant family (from left): Johanna, Samantha, Alex, Ben, Melissa, Dennis, Leah, and Randy.

In the spring of 1998‚ Melissa Grant seemed to have it all. She had just made partner at her law firm. She had two healthy‚ beautiful children and another on the way. She had a loving husband.

Her health‚ however‚ was declining. Grant was frequently dizzy‚ had trouble walking‚ and was struggling to keep her balance. Doctors tested her for several diseases‚ but they couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong.

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Moving from one country and culture to another is never easy. Moving and then discovering you have a life-threatening illness is even tougher.

But 13-year-old Asha Ali prefers to look at the bright side. Two years after Asha and her family immigrated to the United States from a Somalian refugee camp in Kenya‚ she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Instead of being angry at what happened to her‚ she's just grateful the events occurred in that order.

"If I was still in Somalia I wouldn't have gotten a doctor‚ and I wouldn't have found out I had cancer‚" Asha says.

Dana Johnson

"If you would have asked us 10 years ago what we'd be doing now‚ we would have said we'd be empty nesters traveling the world and playing golf‚" Paul says.

The Singers had two grown biologicaldaughters at home when they decided to adopt another child. Soon theywere in Russia‚ holding 11-month-old Angela in their arms‚ experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. The moment she reached out for Teri's hand‚ there was an instant connection. But what's that on her medical record? How will she grow emotionally after being institutionalized?

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When she talks about international adoption‚ Cynthia Howard, M.D., truly speaks from the heart.

Associate director of the Global Pediatrics Program‚ Howard recently was named codirector of the University of Minnesota's International Adoption Clinic‚ which helps children from other countries and their new families cope with health and related issues. Howard is also the mother of two sparkly-eyed adopted daughters‚ Christine and Loice‚ who in their four short years have already overcome more challenges than many of us encounter in a lifetime.

Chandy John, M.D., reviews a research study with field dream

In the next minute‚ 240 babies will take their first breath; 216 of them will do so in a developing country. By the time the 24 babies born in the world's wealthiest nations don their bright backpacks and new shoes and head off to kindergarten‚ a third of the others will have suffered from malnutrition. Nineteen will have died‚ most from preventable illnesses such as respiratory infection‚ diarrhea‚ malaria‚ and measles.

The call for help is clear. So is the response being shaped by the Department of Pediatrics.

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A small investment in research can reap big rewards. Just ask Michael Georgieff, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and child development‚ whose research team recently witnessed the process firsthand.

It started in July 2004‚ when Georgieff received a $15‚000‚ one-year faculty grant from the Minnesota Medical Foundation to help him develop a model of how iron deficiency affects the developing brains of babies and fetuses. When that funding ran out and the project showed promising results‚ the Minnesota Vikings Children's Fund gave him another one year grant in October 2005 worth $12‚000 to continue that research.

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The Department of Pediatrics welcomed two faculty members this summer to the new Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

Ron Furnival, M.D., serves as division chief and also as director of the new pediatric emergency room at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital‚ Fairview. He is nationally recognized for his work on pediatric trauma‚ patient safety‚ and analysis of emergency medical services data.

A new children’s care facility on the University’s Riverside campus will enhance pediatric services and foster a family-centered environment.

The University of Minnesota Medical Center, ranks among the country’s top 50 hospitals in 11 specialties, according to the “Best Hospitals 2006” issue of U.S. News & World Report. This record-breaking performance is up from 10 specialties in 2005 and 7 specialties in 2004.

Gary Davis, Ph.D.

Gary Davis, Ph.D., was recently named a “Rural Health Hero” by his peers at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference in Duluth for his leadership in serving rural communities with mental health consultations via telemedicine.

Gary Davis, Ph.D.

Gary Davis, Ph.D., was recently named a “Rural Health Hero” by his peers at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference in Duluth for his leadership in serving rural communities with mental health consultations via telemedicine.

Thumbnail image for Jay Krachmer, M.D., head of the department of Ophthalmology; Patty Porter, Minnesota Medical Foundation vice president of development; Lions member Lynn Farley; and Richard Reger, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., board chair. (Photo by

A sophisticated new machine called a multifocal electroretinogram (ERG) was recently donated to the Department of Ophthalmology by the Minnesota Lions. Only a few dozen of these machines exist nationwide, and research is underway at the University of Minnesota and other institutions to determine their potential applications.

The concept behind the multifocal ERG is this: When a retina is stimulated by light, it turns that light into electrical signals that the brain reads. The multifocal ERG measures electrical signals after shining 103 different lights across a large part of the retina's surface, providing a precise picture of how each portion and layer of the retina is functioning.

Daily tasks such as paying the bills can be difficult for people with compromised vision. Here, occupational therapist Mary Ruff helps Joan Dombrowski with large-print checks and a large-print check register.

For Jeff Bohman, the difference in his life seems like night and day.

An autoimmune disorder called Sjögren's syndrome was causing Bohman's vision to worsen, and the change made him feel isolated. But now, months after visiting the University of Minnesota's Low Vision Center, he finds he can once again do many of the things he's always enjoyed.

Donald Doughman, M.D.

The contributions Donald Doughman, M.D., made to corneal tissue preservation more than 30 years ago have had a long-lasting impact on corneal transplant surgery.

When he arrived at the University in 1972, tissue from donated corneas were transplanted within 24 hours, which meant that patients had to be near a phone at all times with their bags packed, and surgeons often had to get up in the middle of the night to perform transplant operations, says Doughman, professor of ophthalmology and medical director of the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank. "Corneal transplants were done on an emergency—not an elective—basis," he says.

Thumbnail image for Class of 2000 alumni Julie Anderson, M.D., Peter Lund, M.D., Shannon Parkos, M.D., and Eric Haug, M.D., share a smile. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

The Department of Ophthalmology celebrated accomplishments by faculty, alumni, and volunteers in advocating for and supporting visual health and eye research at its 2006 Annual Banquet. The event, cohosted by the department and the Minnesota Medical Foundation, was held on Wednesday, October 18, 20{06, at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Three individuals were honored for their contributions to the Department of Ophthalmology:

At age five, Merrilyn Dawson underwentant experimental surgery to repair her heart condition. And 63 years later, doctors repaired the same condition with a much less painful procedure.

Merrilyn Dawson doesn't need to see the list of "firsts" in heart surgery to know that the University of Minnesota is a leader in the field. Instead, she is living proof of the University's innovations—and has the newspaper clippings to prove it.

In 1943, when she was just five years old, Dawson made medical history when she underwent an experimental surgery at the former University of Minnesota Hospital to tie off a leaking blood vessel that led to her heart. "I remembered being very cold and lots of bright lights, and above there was a gallery full of people," says Dawson.

Thumbnail image for Known to many as “Sully,” longtime educator W. Albert Sullivan, M.D., believed that future physicians should be not only intelligent but also well-rounded individuals.

Today's medical students face skyrocketing tuition bills, averaging a debt load of more than $120,000 by the time they receive their M.D.'s.

If you'd like to make a difference for University of Minnesota medical students, now's a good time to act. Every dollar you donate to the Albert Sullivan Scholarship Fund will be worth four dollars thanks to two matching programs.

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It wasn't exactly the traditional path to medical school.

Before thoughts of anatomy lab and pathology textbooks even crossed his mind, Stuart Bloom, M.D., Class of 1995, was cracking one-liners onstage in New York City. He wrote and performed songs as a regular at the Improv Comedy Club and did a lot of musical theater. "I was usually the funny guy in musicals," Bloom says. "The funny guy usually doesn't have to sing as well."

Doris Taylor, Ph.D.

Using minimally invasive robotic surgery equipment, researchers have successfully repaired damaged heart tissue in pigs with injections of stem cells. The cells were successfully transplanted in six of seven cases. Subsequent studies showed that the cells took hold in the heart and function improved.

The research team, co-led by Doris Taylor, Ph.D., professor of physiology and holder of the Medtronic Bakken Chair in Cardiovascular Repair, used a combination of skeletal myoblasts—or cells that give rise to muscle—and bone marrow-derived cells. Both cell types have been shown to improve the development of newblood vesselsand to improve functionof injured heart muscle.

David Jewison

When David Jewison signed up for the University of Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), he hoped he'd be able to serve people in a time of need. He never dreamed that his service would be honored by the president of the United States.

Jewison, now a fourth-year medical student at the University, received the President's Volunteer Service Award during President George W. Bush's visit to Minnesota on August 22.

Thumbnail image for Medical School associate deans Paul White, J.D., and Kathleen Watson, M.D., say new admissions standards reward such qualities as compassion, tolerance, and resilience. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Paul T. White, J.D., has joined the Medical School administration as director of admissions.

White brings more than 20 years of admissions experience to the University of Minnesota. For the last dozen years, he served at Johns Hopkins University, first as director of undergraduate admissions and most recently as assistant dean for admissions and financial aid for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Christopher Moertel, M.D. (left), and John Ohlfest, Ph.D., expect that a brain tumor vaccine they’ve created will be available to patients through clinical trials this winter. (Photo: Children's Cancer Research Fund)

There's good news on the way for people with cancerous tumors: Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed novel anti-cancer drugs to treat solid tumors. The new compounds effectively reduce blood flow to tumors, thereby inhibiting their growth.

In studies on mice, the compounds inhibited tumor growth by up to 80 percent. In combination with chemotherapy, they essentially eliminated the tumors. There is currently an FDA-approved protein anti-angiogenic agent on the market, but these new tumor-targeting compounds are smaller, synthetic forms of the proteins. Because of that, they could possibly be taken in pill form and could be less costly to produce.

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No one said quitting would be easy, but it may be more difficult for African Americans than for Caucasians, according to research at the University of Minnesota.

In a study led by Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., African American smokers showed greater brain responses to smoking cues, such as images of individuals smoking, than did Caucasian smokers.

Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D.

In her quest to prevent memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease, neurology professor Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., has achieved a number of research firsts. And in recognition of her work, Ashe was recently chosen by her peers in Alzheimer's research as having 3 of the 18 most influential papers on the disease.

The journal Nature Medicine polled respected Alzheimer's disease researchers, asking which papers have most contributed to the field since 2003. Receiving the most mentions was Ashe's most recent paper, published in the March 2006 issue of the journal Nature, which identified a protein complex that causes memory loss in mice. This discovery paves the way for drug development that would target this complex, offering hope for new treatments for the disease.

Becky Malkerson became the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s new leader in August.

Elizabeth A. Malkerson has been named president and chief executive officer by the board of trustees of the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF). Malkerson will work with the board to implement the foundation's strategic goals, including increasing sustained philanthropy from $55 million in fiscal year 2006 to $100 million annually within five years.

"Becky Malkerson is the right person at the right time in the foundation's history," says MMF board chair Beth Erickson. "She will help us build on our current momentum while advancing us toward the realization of our long-term strategic goals."

Reyanna Hain participates in CAIMH’s SuperStars program.

Recent federal budget cuts threaten a successful University of Minnesota program that has graduated more American Indian physicians than all but one other medical school in this country. The Center of American Indian and Minority Health (CAIMH), located on the University of Minnesota Medical School's Minneapolis and Duluth campuses, lost 83 percent of its budget when its federal funding ended September 1. The Medical School is seeking support from Congress, possibly the state legislature, and private donors to replace those funds. Without that support, fewer students will be able to participate in this popular program that encourages Native Americans to go to school, stay in school, and graduate from college and medical school.

We are one of the three or four great departments of surgery in the country. We’ve had leadership that has made us focus on developing novel ways of changing the lives of patients. – Selwyn Vickers, M.D

Ask medical leaders what influenced their career paths, and you'll receive many different responses. In the case of Selwyn Vickers, M.D., who in August took over as chair of the University's Department of Surgery, his guiding influence was a surgical procedure and the mentor who pioneered it.

As a fellow and surgical resident at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the 1990s, Vickers developed a keen interest in the work of surgeon John Cameron, M.D., who refined the Whipple procedure, an intricate operation to treat pancreatic cancer. Although Cameron's refinements succeeded in reducing the procedure's mortality rate from 25 percent to only 1 percent, pancreatic cancer has remained the nation's fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths, with a five-year survival rate of only 4 percent.

Building momentum

It's a Wednesday afternoon, and things are hopping at the McGuire Translational Research Facility.

In one of the 30 offices lining the south side of the four-story building, a faculty member in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine is tapping intently at a keyboard. Just down the hall, through doors that open to a long, day-lit laboratory, a student pipettes liquid into a rack full of tubes, preparing to grow plasmids as part of a study on developing gene therapies for brain cancer. At a table looking out over the four-story atrium, three graduate students—perhaps from the Stem Cell Institute or the orphan drug program—eat late lunches from plastic containers. Upstairs and down, dozens of others are working on solutions to a spectrum of health problems: TB, HIV, malaria, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury.

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Former School of Public Health professor and dean Lee Stauffer has always shared his passion for public health. During his 36 years on the faculty—12 of them as dean—he often told his students, "You've selected a noble profession. You're going to help people for the rest of your lives." Following his retirement from the school in 1991, Stauffer and his late wife Donna found another way to share that passion by making a gift to the school that was used to establish the Lee and Donna Stauffer Scholarship.

Penny Wheeler, M.D.

It was 1988 and Penny Wheeler‚ M.D.‚ was tired. As a senior resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota‚ she had just completed a grueling rotation. A few days later‚ the chair of the department at the time‚ Leo Twiggs‚ M.D.‚ asked her to take a walk with him. Wheeler couldn't imagine why he would be upset with her.

She needn't have worried.

"As we strolled around the health sciences buildings‚ he told me that I needed to be a leader‚ and his words have stuck with me ever since‚" recalls Wheeler.

Melissa Geller, M.D.

Melissa Geller, M.D., was a second-year fellow at the University of Minnesota when she first fully grasped the need for quality patient education materials for women with ovarian cancer.

While making rounds for newly diagnosed patients‚ Geller was often answering questions well into the evening‚ and she still felt that it wasn't enough.

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The School of Public Health has partnered with Twin Cities-based consulting firm Reden & Anders on a fellowship that both parties are looking to as a new model for mentoring young professionals and financing graduate education. Through the fellowship, SPH doctoral students work part time at Reden & Anders, a national health care consulting firm (and a division of Ingenix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group). "We approached the University on this because we view it as such an important resource for our organization," says Nancy Walczak, senior consultant at Reden & Anders.

This year’s Bakken symposium will highlight the evolving technologies used in minimally invasive surgery.

A third-year medical student uses the Web to perform a mock patient examination for course credit. A surgeon removes a cancerous tumor with a tiny incision and robotic arms. A soon-to-be mother feels her baby kicking as she watches the little legs move on a computer screen.

The Department of Obstetrics‚ Gynecology‚ and Women's Health has honed in on technology to improve the way it cares for patients and educates students and residents. As a part of the University's Academic Health Center‚ the department and its faculty members have benefited from collaborations with colleagues in bioengineering‚ basic sciences‚ information technology‚ and many other disciplines.

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What's the connection between miscarriage and inactivation of the X chromosome? That's what Tracy Prosen‚ M.D.‚ assistant professor in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine‚ hopes to find out.

Women have two X chromosomes in every cell‚ but as female embryos develop in utero‚ one of those chromosomes is shut off‚ or inactivated‚ so that each cell uses only one X chromosome. Normally‚ that inactivation is random; the X chromosome from either the father or the mother can be inactivated.

Nancy Lindberg

When 77-year-old Nancy Lindberg was diagnosed with uterine cancer in March 2005‚ she took the news in relative stride. Her disease was at a low level-stage 1-and she felt she was blessed with "good genes and a good‚ strong body."

To remove and contain the cancer most effectively‚ doctors recommended that she have her ovaries‚ uterus‚ and fallopian tubes removed.

When surgical oncologist Peter Argenta‚ M.D.‚ suggested that she would be a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery with the da Vinci robotic surgical system‚ she was optimistic.

Thumbnail image for Jane Starr hopes her gifts will expedite better treatments for adults who have leukemia.

Community involvement has always been important to Barbara. When they were younger‚ she and her husband taught their children the value of community service and charitable giving. The family was regularly involved in community projects‚ and they often spent holidays volunteering to serve those who were not as fortunate.

When her husband passed on a year ago‚ Barbara immersed herself in her volunteer work and started to think about ways that she might give even more.

Thumbnail image for Oncologist Tufia Haddad, M.D., says real-time MRI monitoring and data analysis through the I-SPY2 clinical trial will help to determine which new drugs are most beneficial for breast cancer patients. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this summer approved a vaccine to protect women against cervical cancer. The vaccine prevents infection by four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV)‚ a sexually transmitted infection that is the most common cause of cervical cancer.

Levi Downs Jr., M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and a member of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center‚ was one of the principal investigators on the international study.

Thumbnail image for Donald Doughman, M.D.

Donald Doughman, M.D., is a compassionate caregiver and teacher and a well-respected researcher. He has given exceptional care to his patients, trained new ophthalmologists, and conducted leading-edge eye research here for more than 30 years.

Doughman's enthusiasm for cornea research, care, and education is clear to all who know him. He tirelessly strives to give his best to his patients, students, and colleagues. Please consider honoring Doughman's contributions to the Department of Ophthalmology with a gift to the Doughman Cornea Research and Education Fund.

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We remember Medical School alumni who have recently passed away and honor their contributions to improving health and advancing medicine.

Thumbnail image for Class of 2000 alumni Julie Anderson, M.D., Peter Lund, M.D., Shannon Parkos, M.D., and Eric Haug, M.D., share a smile. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Reunion Weekend is moving from May to September. Beginning with the classes scheduled to reunite in 2007—Medical School graduating classes of 1947, 1952, 1957, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, and 1997—Reunion Weekend will move to the fall to better accommodate busy summer schedules. With many people's May calendars already packed with commencement ceremonies and weddings, some alumni who would have liked to attend their reunions haven't been able to make it, says Emily Heagle, assistant vice president of alumni and donor relations at the Minnesota Medical Foundation.

Charles Marvin Jr., M.D., Class of 1981, and Reimert Ravenholt, M.D.,Class of 1951, chat before their class dinners.

Reunion Weekend 2006 began on May 19 for eight celebrating classes between 1946 and 1996 with updates on medical education and research at the University. Alumni also toured the cutting-edge McGuire Translational Research Facility and attended the Alumni Recognition Banquet, which honored distinguished members of the University community. To wrap up the weekend, each reunion class met for an individual class dinner on May 20. "Everything was great—the impressive facilities, the wonderful food, and especially the socializing with fellow graduates and their spouses," says John E. Quast, M.D., Class of 1956. "It was a perfect way to celebrate our special 50th reunion."


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