Reflections and stories from the past and today.
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In Remembrance of P&S

Robert Scott, P&S'61

I have been given the opportunity to say a few words about my experience at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. This covers the dates of September 1957 to June 1961. The events during that period totally changed my life. To put this in perspective, up to that time I had lived my life in rural Minnesota. I had lived in a town of about 7,000 people and had always been in the majority. In that town, there had been two families of Jewish ancestry and no people of color. I was a WASP, i.e. White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant. My college experience at Carleton had been somewhat different but not much. I was married a week before heading out for medical school and New York City. That marriage has thrived for more than 59 years. I like to tell people that I do not know whether I learned more from New York City or from medical school. Both were EXCITING!

            Once my wife and I had arrived in NYC, we were looking for an apartment. This process taught me early on that I was now part of the minority. We weren’t even second but third. This was one of the most valuable lessons I thoroughly learned in those four years. Working with African-Americans, Puerto Ricans in the various NYC hospitals, especially Bellevue, certainly changed how I would work with patients in the minority once I returned to Minnesota.    

            The first Saturday in my medical experience was mind boggling! I attended my first Clinical Pathological Conference. I still remember the case. The patient had reportedly been part of a family that had a history of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia in some of its members. The patient had presented coughing up large amounts of blood. He was deteriorating rapidly and developed a cardiac arrest. At that point, the professor/physician taking care of him medically performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but to no avail and the patient expired.  I do not recall what the professor discussing the case gave as the most likely diagnosis, but I do remember that the pathological diagnosis was cavitary tuberculosis. That was the source of the hemorrhage. Fortunately, there was adequate treatment for tuberculosis at that time.

            Another case taught us the importance of the careful recording of an accurate history. This involved a young mother who had brought her infant to Babies Hospital. The diagnosis of scurvy was quickly made. However, it was not obvious why the infant had this condition. The mother and her child were living in a nice apartment in the back of Carnegie Hall. She also reported giving the child orange juice almost daily. Not until the fourth medical student questioned her did we learn that the mother, to be certain that the orange juice was sterile, boiled the juice before giving it to her infant.

            Throughout the last two years at P&S, I had the privilege of spending several months at Bellevue. The place was incredibly bad in terms of bricks and mortar. There was almost total lack of privacy with the huge wards and only sheets hung like curtains between the beds. It was not unusual for patients to die during the night, only to be discovered when they didn’t sit up and eat their breakfast. However, the teaching that took place at Bellevue made it all worthwhile. Drs. Cournand and Richards were amazing. They had won their Nobel Prize in 1956 having been the first to successfully catheterize the heart. However, the most impressive thing for me was when their patients would come to the Bellevue clinic to allow medical students to listen to their damaged heart valves. They came because Dr. Cournand or Richards had asked them to come. I still remember the comment made by Dr. Richards who stated that the most important part of the examination by a stethoscope was the fact that it got the doctor within 12 inches of the patient. I still recall many of the cases I saw at Bellevue 57 years ago. 

            We had some outstanding professors who were very interested in teaching.  Several examples stood me in good stead years later. I don’t recall the name of the orthopedic surgical professor who told us about a patient he had had who was playing handball and crashed into the wall, causing a hip fracture. However, the two ends of the fractured bone had wedged together and the patient had walked into his office with a broken hip.  I had use for that knowledge more than once in the future, making the diagnosis of a hip fracture in a patient able to walk into my office. 

            While I could go on with other stories involving patients and what they taught me, I think the point has been made. However, there is still the life-changing experience of living in NYC. We were there when Nikita Khrushchev attended a session at the United Nations and pounded his shoe on his desk in exasperation. Why would he do this? Apparently, he had expected to be able to announce that Russia had a man in space, but instead the so-called astronaut had landed in the ocean off the coast of Vladivostok. Another memorable event was during the last quarter of my medical school experience when I was on the obstetric rotation. We medical students were in competition for delivering babies with the mid-wives who were also in training. I stepped out on to the south-facing porch looking down the Hudson River. At the end of the Hudson there were many fireboats spewing their firehoses into the air. Many other boats were running their sirens full-blast and any boat that would get out from the docks was doing so to welcome Sir Winston Churchill who was arriving on the Onassis yacht.

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P&S Awards for Excellence

CHHMP Community Service Awards

On January 12, 2017, P&S held the annual P&S Awards for Excellence ceremony.  Award recipients were chosen by a committee from a pool of nominees to receive the distinguished awards for their commitment to P&S. The Community Service Award was presented to students and physicians of CHHMP: Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership, a P&S student-run clinic.

Charles Drew, P&S MSD'40

Charles R. Drew, P&S MSD'40

Charles R. Drew, MD, MSD (1904-1950), was an American surgeon whose expertise in blood preservation helped shape blood banking in the United States. His doctoral work was completed at Columbia, and in 1940 he became the first African-American to receive a doctor of medical science degree from P&S. Watch the video.

Charles Drew, blood bank pioneer

Karen Hein, P&S'70

Karen Hein, P&S'70

I think P&S prepared me for a life of caring about others by enabling me to have experiences with others right from the beginning. Watch the video.

Karen Hein on P&S's 250th Anniversary

Craig Granowitz, P&S'90

Craig Granowitz, P&S'90

I'm proud to be a part of and aspire to stand on the shoulders of those who have done so much for medicine before me. Congratulations P&S to 250 years, may there be 250 more! Watch the video.

Craig Granowitz on P&S's 250th Anniversary

P&S Alumni Council Dinner

P&S Alumni Council Dinner

On January 18, 2017, the P&S Alumni Council marked the 250th Anniversary at their annual dean’s dinner in the new Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center. Dean Goldman delivered an exciting update on campus revitalization and welcomed all alumni to join in the 250th Anniversary year festivities. The P&S Alumni Association Leadership proudly presented Dean Goldman with a $50,000 donation to support scholarship efforts.

Cake-Off Event Kicks Off a Year of Anniversaries

CUMC Cake-Off collage

Making a sweet start to the year, CUMC held a “cake off” to kick off the various anniversary celebrations happening across campus in 2017. Neighborhood bakeries made a special cake for each school, and a panel of judges as well as CUMC faculty and staff were invited to vote for their favorite in terms of appearance, taste, and representation of the school’s anniversary or mission. The winners are revealed here. The cakes were highlighted as the "Photo of the Week" by CU168.

Bard Hall Roof End-of-Year Gathering

Bard Hall rooftop gathering

Just about every medical student who has gone to P&S remembers Bard Hall, whether they went for social gatherings, musical performances, or lived there during the first year of medical school. One very special place for me is actually at the top of Bard Hall, on the roof overlooking everything including the George Washington Bridge just to the north, the Hudson River with some of the most beautiful sunsets to the west, and the picturesque New York City skyline to the south. This was also always a great place for friends to get together and celebrate medical school milestones. I remember one instance in particular where our entire class gathered on Bard roof after the end of our first year of medical school, having worked hard all year in the classroom. It was hard to believe how much we had learned in one year together, and even more incredible to consider what was to come in the years ahead. But by no means did I do it alone. As I look back, it’s times like these where I remember how important my classmates have been to my time here at P&S.

P&S Outdoor Orientation Program

P&S Outdoor Orientation Program

Making friends at P&S started even before I stepped into the classroom. The Physicians and Surgeons Outdoor Orientation Program (P-SOOP) is a chance for incoming first year medical students at Columbia to spend some time hiking and camping together in the Catskill Mountains just before school started in August. It was an incredible opportunity to meet and interact with other incoming students as well as current P&S students who led the program. On my own P-SOOP trip, I remember learning that the weather was predicted to be miserable, but that didn’t stop us. My new friends and I had a blast. Because of the continuous rain, we had to work even harder together each day to set up camp, cook meals, and hike up rocky terrain that was now transformed into a continuous series of mini-waterfalls at every turn. Looking back, the fact that the conditions were so tough was one of the reasons we had bonded so well and become such great friends to this day. Perhaps the same can be said for medical school in general: while the experience was often rigorous, if I were to do it all over again, I’d choose P&S in a heartbeat for the chance to have these amazing men and women by my side throughout the journey.