Last week I had the last meeting of my Visiting Committee. They are distinguished academics, alumni, businessmen and others with interest who have taken time and contributed energy to the School of Medicine. It was by Zoom—it certainly wasn’t supposed to be that way! We were supposed to have a preliminary dinner to celebrate their contributions and say goodbye. I was supposed to shake their hands and thank them. Still, at that Zoom meeting, they contributed their ideas on improving recruitment of faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine, the financial issues created by the COVID pandemic, the ability to retain excellent faculty and continue to invest. And characteristically they asked for their next assignments—what did I wish they had done, and what does Dr. Gerson wish they will do? And, a few minutes before the meeting began, one of them signed off on a million-dollar scholarship commitment. A highly successful academic alum himself with a daughter who also graduated from our school, he is proud to give others the chance to attend. I am incredibly grateful to each of them for their wisdom, advice, focus, contributions, corrections, arguments, and encouragement. They have played a vital role in the progress of the school.
This week, we will have a virtual meeting of the alumni board—which wasn’t supposed to be that way, either. We were supposed to savor the tremendous engagement of our alumni. They were supposed to be able to look me in the eye and know how much I admire them and their spirit. What a great and inspiring group! They have pitched in to help our students travel and visit prospective residencies, the classes have entered the competition to provide a million-dollar scholarship endowment (the first class to achieve it was 1966), and the alumni have engaged in connecting with one another and with our students. They have been major supporters of our efforts, set records for annual fund contributions, participated in teaching our students both here and around the country—and they have been wonderful.
There are many goodbyes to be said this week and next. Sometimes I worry, for I have never run from adversity and now is a time of great adversity for the university, and by derivation, for the School of Medicine. But this was planned a long time ago, succession and progression are assured, and it is time.
I have great gratitude for the Visiting Committee and the Alumni Board, for all they have done and all I know they will do. We are truly blessed to have such supporters. Cherish them!