Tuition was a few thousand dollars. The campus was dotted with open fields. There were a handful of women students.
A lot has changed since Robert Ouwendijk graduated from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. But one thing hasn’t — the camaraderie he shared with his fellow members of the Class of 1963.
Fifty years later, on May 31, he joined many of his classmates for induction as a 50-Year Fellow, a distinction that is bestowed only on former students who graduated at least 50 years ago.
Of course, some things never change for Keck School students.
“I was really busy,” the hematology oncologist said during a luncheon celebration at the Jonathan Club. “But the teaching staff was great. Looking back, it was wonderful.”
Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito welcomed the group, which included alumni whose student years went as far back as the early 1940s.
“When I started these 50-Year Fellow lunches, I always told myself 50 years was a long way in the future,” he said. “Now I’ve only got 14 years to go, so the 50-year reunion classes look younger and younger.”
Puliafito spoke about the advances that have been made at the school, calling the last five years a “renaissance.”
“It is still a very busy and special place for giving patients the finest quality of care, and a teaching environment where our residents and our medical students play a continuing and important role in taking care of these patients,” he said.
He said the school is committed to maintaining its quality education and high standards, and he asked the alumni to help do their part.
“Medical education remains an extremely high priority at the Keck School of Medicine,” he said. “That’s how we use donations from alumni. They’re all used for the education of your successors.”
One of those successors is Mariya Kalashnikova, a third-year student who talked about her own journey from a childhood in Kiev to her studies at the Keck School.
“It’s really humbling to stand up here,” she said. “There must be a millennium of medical experience in this room. Sometimes when you’re in training, that feels very far away. Congratulations to all of you.”
The 1963 alumni were called to the podium one at a time and presented with medallions by Puliafito and Phil Manning, who served the university as physician-educator for nearly 50 years.
Receiving special recognition at the event was Robert Stanton, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award. A graduate of UCLA (a fact Puliafito teased him about), he earned his medical degree from the Keck School in 1954. He spent the next 50 years at the Keck School as a pediatric cardiologist and is now professor emeritus of clinical pediatrics. He spent most of his career practicing at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Stanton remembered a school that would hardly be recognizable today.
“There were hardly any buildings at all,” he said. “All we had were Quonset huts. And our class only had a few women. Now the students are half girls and half boys.”
He offered a few words of advice to young people who are working their way through medical education.
“It’s a lifelong learning situation,” he said. “Keep learning and you’ll be happy.”