Monthly | Pulse

May/JUN '14

An Update from the Perelman School of Medicine

Reflecting on the Past: Alumni Headliners at Medical Alumni Weekend

Those who arrived early enough to enjoy Pancakes with Professors on Friday were also treated to a diverse and energetic telling of 50 years worth of medical tales courtesy of the Class of 1964 50th Reunion Panel.50th Panel (l-r): Bob Fischer, M'64, FEL'70, Bill Eaton, C'59, M'64, GR'67, Martin Kanovsky, MD, John Forrest, Jr., M'64 and Carl Bartecchi, M'64

Carl Bartecchi, M’64, author of A Doctor’s Vietnam Journal, was drafted as a flight surgeon soon after medical school. He spoke movingly of his annual volunteer efforts, begun in the late 1990s, of conducting critical care education programs in Hanoi and elsewhere in Vietnam.

Bob Fischer, M’64, FEL’70, who, as a preventive medicine officer, was also drafted to serve in Vietnam, is a professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at Temple University. He proudly offered a who’s who of gastroenterologists prominent locally and nationally who have strong ties to Penn Medicine.

Bill Eaton, C’59, M’64, GR’67, one of the first MD/PhD graduates at Penn and recognized at the Friday night Dean’s Dinner with a Distinguished Graduate Award for groundbreaking research during his lengthy NIH career, regaled the audience with tales of biophysical studies that have yielded major breakthroughs in understanding sickle cell disease.

John Forrest, Jr., M’64, who organized the panel discussion, is a professor of Medicine and director of the office of student research at Yale School of Medicine. He offered a slide show trip down memory lane, including reminiscences of influential faculty.

All of the distinguished panelists expressed pride in their association with Penn and the far-reaching impact of their medical educations here as well as amazement at the physical transformation of the campus.

Later that morning, Park Dietz, MD, MPH, PhD, FEL’78, recounted his unorthodox career path from medical student to expert witness in the nation’s highest-profile criminal cases. But even after decades of peering into criminal minds, from Jeffrey Dahmer to the Unabomber, Dietz hesitated to use the word "evil." Where others see evil, Dietz found “missed opportunities for prevention.” And he was equally skeptical of “sudden” acts of violence, seeing instead individuals who “throw out many signals of the trajectory they’re on” - and who can be stopped if we pay enough attention.

Acknowledging the formative impact of his mentor, Robert Sadoff, and Penn’s vibrant interdisciplinary atmosphere, Dietz traced the development of his innovative public-health approach to violence. His talk included some surprising details, from the orange squirt gun found in John Hinckley’s hotel room to a peculiar fact about stalkers (hint: beware a love letter more than a death threat). But Dietz’s most intriguing revelation was also the most fundamental. Our best chance for deterring violence, he concluded, is to intervene in a manner that communicates respect for the “essential humanity” of troubled individuals.

Flying Through the Jordan Medical Education Center

With the ribbon-cutting on May 16, 2015, set to become a major highlight of the Perelman School’s 250th celebration, the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center made its screen debut at Medical Alumni Weekend.

Now you can click below to see - and share - the new, virtual “fly through” on a screen near you. Read more about the building on our website dedicated to the new building.

Video of the Henry A. Jordan M'62 Medical Education Center

The fly through shows how the spaces within the Center flow together, creating a welcoming, data-rich academic environment where students will naturally begin to weave continual medical learning into the flow of their lives.

At the entrance, students can turn left to enter the prominent Joseph and Loretta Law Auditorium for formal lectures, conferences, and seminars. Located in the front corner of the Jordan Center, this grand public meeting space will draw speakers and events from across the Perelman School and the University.

Bearing right at the entrance leads instead to the Living Room and Living Room Patio as well as the Donor Wall.

Living Room and Living Room Patio

Around the next corner, the heart of the Jordan Educational Center is revealed: the Atrium, where a series of open and airy Lounges, Patios, Meeting Spaces, and Conference Rooms flow into the Measey Learning Commons and ascend to the Center for Student Life and Faculty Offices on the next floor.



Alternate Atrium ViewAt the far end, the School’s ties to the city are strikingly highlighted in the skyline view visible in the East Pavilion Event Space and Dais and adjoining City View Patio.

East Pavilion Event Space and Dais


City View Patio

Designed to be active 24/7, this dynamic and inviting setting gives students the space they need to relax and socialize, or reflect and talk over new ideas and experiences.

Inside the 13,000-square-foot Measey Learning Commons, every kind of educational activity becomes possible. Easy access to technology keeps the pursuit of knowledge active and engaging to both teachers and students. With more than fifty 70-inch screens throughout the Commons, information of all kinds - videos detailing anatomy and organ systems, live footage of the latest procedures, new publications, and all types of medical images and data - are close at hand. No idea is too big or detail too small to be woven into the conversation.

The four Seminar Rooms within the Commons can be easily reconfigured into 8 or more smaller classrooms as topics and activities demand. The Commons also includes eight additional Classrooms, the Quiet Lounge, and Group Learning Spaces to accommodate both formal and informal study.

The AV Studio means that everything taking place in the Commons is captured, and can be broadcast to any Perelman School building.

In all, the Jordan Center brings together classrooms, faculty offices, and administrative areas currently scattered among six different buildings. This unified, beautiful space will connect students to classmates and professors as well as to the world-renowned clinicians and researchers in the adjoining Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine and Smilow Center for Translational Research.

It is the collaborative space of the future, where students, trainers, physicians, and other health care professionals will be encouraged to collaborate and innovate.

Thanks in large part to alumni giving, $20 million has been raised toward the Jordan Center’s $25 million goal. More than 30 spaces have been named, most of them in the last 15 months. Families, classes, groups, and individuals have all joined in with gifts that commemorate great teachers and loved ones, pay tribute to those formative days spent in medical classrooms, and tangibly connect donors to Penn’s heritage of leadership in medicine.

Naming opportunities still remain for the spaces listed below and more. Gifts will be matched by UPHS, until the $25 million total is reached. Please contact Brett Davidson, Senior Director of Alumni Development and Relations, at 215-898-9175 or if you're interested in any of these opportunities.

  • AV Studio
  • Active Student Lounge
  • Atrium Conference Room
  • City View Patio
  • East Pavilion Event Space and Dais
  • Living Room
  • Living Room Patio
  • Small Group Study Room
  • Center for Student Life (Including the offices of the Registar, Evaluation and Assessment, Combined Degree Office, Student Affairs, Program for Diversity and Inclusion)

Faculty Stars Highlight Breakthroughs Paving the Way for Personalized Medicine

On Friday afternoon, Glen Gaulton, PhD, HOM’91, moderated a panel of our leading faculty who are finding success in translating basic science findings into tangible advances in patient care.

Ralph Muller, CEO of the health system, introduced the panel, noting “All of us in the clinical enterprise are deeply aware that our leadership in science underlies our excellence in patient care.”

Dr. Gaulton, the Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer of the Perelman School, oversees the academic component of all research and research education, including the Combined Degree Program, Biomedical Graduate Studies, and Masters and Postdoctoral Programs. He has been a great leader in driving basic science and translational research across Penn Medicine.

Drs. Gilliland, Drebin, Litt, and Zaret covered the state of pancreatic cancer, epigenetic, and bioengineering research at Penn, focusing specifically on progress in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and epilepsy and the collaborative efforts among faculty that facilitate discovery.

Panel (l-r) with Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, Jeff Drebin, MD, PhD, Brian Litt, MD, Ken Zaret, PhD, and Glen Gaulton, PhD, HOM'91Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, inaugural Vice Dean and Vice President for Precision Medicine, praised Penn’s foresight in its emphasis on collaborative efforts to implement individualized medicine. He cited some of the work of his fellow panelists Drs. Drebin and Zaret as an example. An internationally renowned oncology investigator, Dr. Gilliland previously served as Senior Vice President of Merck Research Laboratories and Oncology Franchise Head, as well as professor of medicine and professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard Medical School.

Jeff Drebin, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Surgery and the 14th John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery, discussed his role as co-principal investigator on the $22 million dollar clinical and translational “dream team” award from the Stand Up to Cancer Foundation for innovative studies in pancreatic cancer. His research, which has contributed significant insight into the genetic causes of cancer, has also been informed by the work of panelist Ken Zaret, PhD, the Joseph Leidy Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Dr. Zaret's discoveries, as Associate Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Director of that Institute’s Program in Cellular Reprogramming and Epigenetics, are being used to develop liver and pancreas cells from stem cells for regenerative medicine.

Brian Litt, MD, Professor of Neurology and Professor of Bioengineering, and Director of the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, offered a window into futuristic medicine happening now. His lab is developing devices made with flexible silicon filaments that essentially melt into place, snugly embedding in the surface of the brain or heart to achieve unprecedented accuracy in recording activity. Dr. Litt focuses primarily on the use of such devices in epilepsy treatment.

Words from the Heart

Graduation 2014

Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhDThis year’s Perelman School of Medicine graduation left no doubt -- medicine inspires the strong of heart.

Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, congratulated the graduates and welcomed the faculty, family, alumni, and trustees filling Verizon Hall to the occasion that “makes tangible all your hard work,” and officially marks the transition from student to physician.

For several trustees on stage, the day was particularly meaningful. Raymond H. Welsh, W’53, witnessed his granddaughter, Christina, receive her degree; Raymond G. Perelman, W’40, HON’14, attended on the eve of receiving his own honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and Walter J. Gamble, M’57, as is his custom, personally congratulated the latest class of Gamble Scholars.

The Dean noted that with alumni looking back on 50 years in practice, joined by students just setting out on careers, graduation brings 100 years of medicine into view. He commented that while technology and demographics have changed (this year’s class is about half men and women), the primacy of the physician-patient relationship endures. He called on students to keep the passion and altruism that brought them to medicine as they set out to “make the world a healthier and more equitable place.”

Elizabeth G. Nabel, MDPresident of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, offered the day’s first address. Around the time of her own graduation, Dr. Nabel cared for a young woman in a Boston ER, sending her home after tests ruled out any reason to keep her. Two days later, the patient returned with a full blown heart attack. She recovered, and gave Dr. Nabel a glimpse she never forgot of a “hidden story waiting to be told.”

Years later, as director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Dr. Nabel launched the Red Dress Heart Truth campaign. Joining forces with First Lady Laura Bush, Diet Coke, and, through the Red Dress Fashion Show, celebrities and fashion designers, this advocacy effort set out to change the way patients, physicians, and the public think about heart disease.

“Look deep with yourself,”Dr. Nabel said. This era of “change in overdrive” will bring “opportunities for advocacy and action.”

“Keeping your patients first,” she concluded, “will lead you to the life of integrity embodied in the Hippocratic oath.”

Arlene Parsons Bennett, ED'60, M'64The 50th year class was represented by Arlene Parsons Bennett, ED’60, M’64, the first African-American woman to graduate from the School.

Dr. Bennett was born at Women’s Hospital in West Philadelphia, where she received her early medical care. “Until I was nine or ten,” she said, “I thought most doctors were women.”

Dr. Helen Dickens and Dr. Mary Dickens Varker stand out in her memory, and early on she decided to become a physician.

After three years in the United States Air Force Dr. Bennett was able to attend Penn. One of only 9 women in her medical school class, she reported that her “male classmates were very protective - they still are.”

She worked in general pediatrics for the next 10 years.

“By then,” she said, “I had had quite enough of treating parents on the side. I decided that treating them directly would be a more effective approach. So I did a residency in psychiatry.”

She has been an active staff psychiatrist at Pennsylvania Hospital since 1980, and a Clinical Associate at HUP since 1977.

“I love every minute of my work, even at 80 years old,” she said.

She advised students, “Your heart and mind must be engaged for you to truly be a great doctor,” and challenged the graduates to report back in 50 years on how they have enhanced medicine.

© 2012 Penn Medicine Alumni. All Rights Reserved.