Reunion Helps Build, Reinforce Alumni Connections

Sharing a laugh at the School of Nursing Quinq Luncheon during Reunion were, from left, Betty Ann Yarbrough, BSN, Janie Capps Macey, BSN, Murray Yarbrough, M.D., Myrtice Demonbreun, BSN, and William Demonbreun. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Rainy weather couldn’t dampen the festivities as nearly 1,200 medical and nursing alumni returned to campus for Reunion for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN).

With the theme, “Come back, Give back,” the Oct. 9-11 Reunion encouraged graduates to return to campus to visit with classmates, see what has changed and lend their support.

“Reunion is a great way for alumni to stay connected with Vanderbilt and for Vanderbilt to stay connected to alumni. It’s a mutual keeping of that connection,” said Linda Norman, DSN, RN, dean of VUSN and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing.

VUSN’s Reunion saw more than 60 attendees gather. A favorite tradition is the Quinq Luncheon with the Dean. Quinqs are alumni celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation.

“It’s a very special occasion at the nursing school. It’s a time for these very special grads to share their stories, and as a faculty, we always find it’s such a rich time to hear from them. They share interesting stories from their time in school, but we also talk about issues in nursing and health care as well as how they have progressed in their careers in nursing.”

For the first time this year, VUSN also offered two continuing education sessions — an advanced pharmacology update and forum on health care reform.

Michael Young, M.D., left, and Brian Drolet, M.D., are members of the VUSM Class of 2009 that became the youngest class to reach its scholarship endowment goal. (photo by Anne Rayner)

In addition to camaraderie and education, Reunion also emphasizes fundraising, especially supporting scholarships. To date, VUSN Reunion alumni have given more than $70,000 to Vanderbilt.

“Ninety-five percent of our current students qualify for full financial aid. Many have a significant amount of debt after graduation, which can take years to pay off their loans. We want to increase the amount of scholarships to decrease their debt burden,” Norman said.

Another great way to give back to VUSN, according to Norman, is to serve as a preceptor for students performing clinical rotations.

“If a student wants to go to Denver for their clinical rotation, we can call on our alumni there for placement ideas. When alumni are engaged, we have a huge network of resources to call on to help educate the next generation. That’s a generous gift.”

More than 1,100 alumni and guests attended the School of Medicine’s Reunion festivities, which included continuing education sessions, class parties and a welcome dinner.

“We try to provide lots of social interaction because people most want to reconnect with their classmates,” said Ann Price, M.D., associate dean for alumni affairs at VUSM. Price is a 1971 graduate of Vanderbilt University and 1978 graduate of VUSM.

“But we also have an opportunity to highlight some of the things that are different at Vanderbilt since they were here. They can see how Vanderbilt has grown and how we’re on the cutting edge.”

The welcome dinner includes the presentation of Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association awards, and with all classes mixed, provides a great opportunity for young alumni to engage with older alumni.

“There’s quite a bit of interaction, and a fair amount of networking goes on between our younger graduates, who may be finishing residency, and our senior graduates, many of whom are in practice,” Price said.

Clifton Cleaveland, M.D., right, presents Oscar Crawford, M.D., with VUSM’s Distinguished Alumnus Award during Reunion. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Both Medical and Nursing Reunion rely heavily on volunteers to develop the weekend’s activities and encourage gifts.

“Our volunteers provide the energy and enthusiasm to push their classmates to come back and renew that camaraderie.

“They are also the compass to set the direction and learn from their classmates what would be most meaningful to support,” Price said.

To date, VUSM Reunion alumni have given more than $2.7 million. A special giving opportunity is the class scholarship, which is funded by members of each graduating class and supports a current medical student.

At this year’s reunion, the VUSM Class of 2009 reached its class scholarship endowment goal, becoming the youngest class to do so.

“We were pretty charged up to make our goal. A big selling point was to be the first class ever to do this at their five-year reunion. We really rallied around this and hope that future years can use our class as an example,” said Brian Drolet, M.D., 2009 Reunion Class Chair.

Drolet is now a chief resident in Plastic Surgery at Brown University and joined about 20 fellow classmates for the Reunion weekend.

“Everyone has good memories and positive feelings about Vanderbilt. You make really close bonds with people in medical school, and it was fun to see them again. It felt like it could have been any weekend five years ago.”

Drolet said it is rewarding to see the class band together to reach their fundraising goal.

“I think philanthropy is very important at whatever level you can give. Many of us are still residents and might not be ready to make a big commitment, but we can make a difference even with small amounts. And we all should give back to a place that has contributed so much to our growth and development,” he said.

“Starting an endowed fund like this so early allows it to really grow over the years. This class scholarship is something we can all see as a common goal — to make a difference for the school that did so much for us.”

But Price is quick to point out that giving is not all about scholarships.

“I try to stress that it’s about giving to the place in Vanderbilt you care most about.”

She said Reunion is a great opportunity to see the impact of giving to Vanderbilt.

“Coming back and seeing the school and seeing the students and seeing what’s happening helps you, if you’re trying to decide how to use your philanthropic funds, see that this is a place they are being well-used and well-stewarded.”

But most of all, it’s about renewing graduates’ connection to their classmates and to Vanderbilt.

“When you come through something very challenging, like medical school or nursing school, there’s a feeling of being in the trenches together,” Price said. “That shared experience creates a bond that just never goes away.”

Leslie Hill, (615) 322-4747