Winter 2018

Looking Back and Ahead

Harris BermanI started medical school at Columbia University in 1960, the year John F. Kennedy was elected president. Back then, the basic sciences were taught in silos: anatomy, histology, physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry each had its own unit. During lectures in big amphitheaters, the professor in the pit would talk for hour after hour while we vigorously scribbled notes. At home, we’d study those notes and textbooks and then regurgitate the info on exams. Your scores were posted so the whole class could see just how you did.

Most importantly, we expose students to diseases and patients during their first year, so they start connecting what they’re learning to a living, breathing person.

As many of you can attest, the explosion of know­ledge we’ve had since my med school days is unbelievable. Medicine and science are constantly evolving—much of what I was taught turned out not to be true. And we tell our students that: Probably half of what they’re learning now will not be considered true or current a few decades from now.

Yet, while so much has changed—and continues to change—in medicine and medical training, one thing has remained constant: the School of Medicine’s commitment to excellence. To mark our 125th anniversary in April, this issue looks back at some of the many significant achievements and breakthroughs by faculty, students, and alumni since TUSM opened its doors in 1893 (with women constituting more than 25 percent of the inaugural class, no less).

There’s the late Robert Schwartz, whose groundbreaking work in immunosuppression in the 1950s paved the way for successful transplant surgery—enabling people who would have died in their 30s, 40s, and 50s of kidney disease to get transplants and live normal lives. The same principles that enabled kidney transplants carried over to liver, heart, lung, and bone marrow transplants, and more. Schwartz’s discovery had a dramatic effect on medical care, and on the lives of countless patients.

A few more highlights: Tufts took a stand against eugenics in the first half of the 20th century, even though the pseudoscience was culturally acceptable at the time. In the late 60s, our faculty members Count Gibson and H. Jack Geiger founded the nation’s first community health centers, in Boston and Mississippi. Roderick MacKinnon, M82, H02, shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work concerning ion channels in cell membranes. And more recently, triple Jumbo and infectious-diseases physician Nahid Bhadelia, J99, F04, M05, fought Ebola from the frontlines in Sierra Leone.

We have a lot to be proud of, but we’re especially proud of all the doctors we’ve trained. The School of Medicine has produced thousands of excellent clinicians, who are compassionate caregivers working all over the country and world.

This is vital because even 125 years from now—when technology’s expanding role in how we diagnose, treat, and relate to patients coupled with the unpredictable march of science will transform medicine—we’ll still need doctors to continue their role as teachers, educating patients so they can make the choices that are right for them. Something to celebrate, indeed!

Harris A. Berman, M.D., Dean, Tufts University School of Medicine

Top Stories

125 Years and Counting

Celebrating just some of the discoveries, pioneers, and innovations at the heart of our school.

Leading the Charge

How Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Tufts created the country’s first community health centers—and launched a movement.

Making Transplants a Reality

Robert S. Schwartz figured out how to prevent organ rejection.

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