Let me begin by apologizing for the delay in bringing out this report. I know a lot of you were eagerly waiting to know about all the events that took place at the SJMC Alumni Association North American Chapter meeting at Baltimore. I sincerely hope that the wait will prove worthwhile.
While it was an Honor and pleasure for Peter, myself and the rest of the executive committee to serve you, as members of a unique and forward thinking organization, I am sure that all of you will agree that change is critical for an organization to move forward healthier and stronger. We thus would like to wish Willie Gomes and the new committee all the very best in their new term. As always, the outgoing committee promises to be involved and lend support whenever needed.
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
The reunion festivities got off to a Johnite start with an unofficial reception at the beautiful and recently renovated Hyatt Resort, Golf Club, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, MD. While many of us had flown in from distant parts of the North American continent, others in the tri-state area preferred to suffer the harrowing 6.5-hour drive down the NJ Turnpike. Air travelers were greeted by the harrowing ‘sniper’ traffic at the Baltimore airport! However, with the worst of the reunion behind them Johnites both old and new slowly began trickling in to be received in true Johnite style by Dr’s. Marian Kamath, Paul Thuluvath, BV Amar, and Adrian Medina among others.
The party and the booze flowed late into the night. When the restaurant and bar closed the reveler moved into guest rooms and continued the festivities. The evening highlight was the arrival of the outgoing President of the association finally crossing the finish line into the resort at 2:30 am!
SJMC ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, NORTH AMERICAN CHAPTER, GENERAL BODY MEETING:
The GBM started with a solemn moment of silence in respect for Peter Mullaikal's father who had recently passed away. This was followed by a welcome address and opening remarks by Dr. Peter D'Sa. Mention was made of the CHS (Catholic Health Services) supporting the staff exchange program with a grant of $30,000 (thanks to the effort of Dr. Marian Kamath); and the equipment transfer program that has seen 3 containers of equipment sent to St. John’s so far.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Kalam, Director St. Johns National Academy of Health Sciences, spoke next and updated the North American alumnus about activities at their alma mater. He spoke at length about the efforts of Dr. Anura Kurpad in setting up the premier Research Institute at St. John’s. It is hoped that this institute will help propel the medical college as one of the premier institutes of population growth studies and clinical trials. He stressed that by making research a priority, that SJMC will improve its overall ranking among medical colleges in India.
Fr. Kalam also spoke about the formation of a steering committee with the involvement of alumnus to help guide SJMC in achieving its objective of medical excellence while providing care to the medically under-served in India (The North American Chapter is currently in the process of forming this committee. If you would like to participate please contact the new President, Dr. William Gomes for details). St. John’s today operates in a highly competitive healthcare market where it needs to attract paying clientele to help it to continue providing service to the needy. It is hoped that with the formation of the steering committee, there will be a greater exchange of ideas and better communication between the alumni and the parent body in achieving this objective. Fr. Kalam however reiterated that SJMC was healthy and strong. All such planning is to ensure that we are able to think ahead and take the institution to the next level of excellence.
Dr. Meenakshi Bharat made a strong presentation about the state of the parent body including all events sponsored by the parent body and their financial status. She also rekindled fond memories of the alma mater with an excellent video presentation comprised of interviews with alumni currently serving on the staff at SJMC. Unfortunately due to shortage of time only half the video could be seen during the GBM and the other half was screened during the banquet in the evening. We will make efforts to try and stream this through the web also if possible. We wish to specially thank Dr. Dominic Misquith and all others involved in making this very memorable video.
The parent body also made an appeal to all North American alumni to become life-members of the parent body and to support activities of the alumni association at SJMC. The request did not go unheard with dues from a majority of outstanding members attending the reunion getting collected. Further Dr. Orlando D’Silva along with the first 5 batches of SJMC pledged $10,000 towards supporting the Isaac Abraham Memorial Hockey tournament, while Dr’s Gladwyn Baptist and Anil Britto have committed $1,000/yr to support the H.J. Mehta Memorial Oration.
Next, Dr. Brian Pereira presented "A Call to Action" - an inspiring talk that outlined his thoughts and vision about a business plan for St. John’s. Agreeing with Fr. Kalam’s thoughts, he noted that the medical landscape in India was rapidly changing and that SJMC needed to revaluate its position, competitiveness and strategy in this environment. He stressed that for SJMC to compete in this new environment it needed to build an outstanding institution that would attract outstanding staff and in turn outstanding students. He also talked about the need for Alumni to convert their role from passive stakeholders to active members of the Governing Board, guide the Governing Board in articulating the mission, and assisting the management in accomplishing the mission. To secure an important role in governance he stated that, "We" (i.e. the alumnus) needed to bring value in terms of Wealth (financial, technology, knowledge), Wisdom (managerial) and Work. Financial assistance comes from fund-raisers, Golf Day, sponsored events, alumni philanthropy (Friends of St. Johns, annual giving or estate bequests), wealthy contacts and charities. In addition, he stated that opportunities existed to channel to St. Johns technology, books & journals, medical equipment, etc.
In more concrete terms, each alumnus could choose the level of his/her level of involvement. Some concrete suggestions included: a) "Picking a Project" - knowledge transfer, take leadership and ownership of a pet initiative, develop an affiliation with your university; b) "Adopting a Department" - serve on the faculty, teach courses and assist in curriculum development, develop new clinical and research programs, sister relationship with your Department/Division, conduct courses & symposia with international & local faculty; and c) "Identifying a Buddy" - mentoring, revolutionary techniques, research collaboration, visiting fellowship, travel assistance to meetings, co-author reviews. Fr. Kalam was very open to suggestions and discussions and took into stride the detailed business plan presented by Brian.
Next Dr. Selwyn Baptist (1963 batch and Past President, SJMC, NA Chapter) updated the audience on his plan to get the SJMC Department of Pathology (DOP) accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). He said that this would serve as a model for the pathology departments of other Medical Colleges and Teaching Hospitals in India for accreditation by CAP. He said that accreditation by CAP will establish that the DOP meets international standards. This according to him should bring prestige to SJMC, increase the volume of testing, generate more research material and income, and become part of the infrastructure needed to support the development of biotechnology in the Bangalore region. The SJMC Alumni Association of NA has agreed to help (partially) fund the plan. However, Dr. Baptist needs further help. Donations can be made to ‘Friends of St. John's’ indicating that the donation is for the Department of Pathology Fund.
On the business end a number of issues were discussed and put to vote. This included a vote on the future of all fund raising by the North American Chapter. It was unanimously decided that money collected from all future fund raisers would go towards building a large endowment fund. Interest on this money would then be used to fund other projects. The goal of the endowment fund would be to raise $1 million before our next reunion two years from now. Our new President has volunteered to spearhead this drive by setting an example with a large donation himself. If any one would like to make a pledge we have pledge cards or one could make a pledge over the Internet too. Unless specifically designated for by the donor all donations and fund raising money would go to build the endowment fund. All donations to the Friends of SJMC are Tax deductible. If all of us were to redirect half our tax deductible donations from their current recipients to Friends of SJMC this goal can be reached even sooner.
The idea of adopting a village as the offspring of the 11th reunion was discussed and met with enthusiasm. However there was not enough time to discuss this in detail and it was decided that this discussion as well as others would be carried out through e-mail. We plan to put out a Questionnaire soon and hope that all of you will respond. Requests were also made to all attendees to become life members of the NA Chapter. Also the plan to form local chapters and class reps to help get everybody in the loop was also discussed. This effort will also be continued over the Internet and any volunteers would be welcome.
Dr. Ephrem Thoppil presented a report on the “Friends of St. John’s”. He stated that the organization had received very favorable support from the SJMC alumni as well as well-wishers. The two golf outings conducted in 2000 and 2001 helped raise approximately $60,000. Further, we were able to get a grant of $ 30,000 from the Catholic Health Services of Long Island. The Dr. Monteiro Memorial Fund currently has $ 11,145, while the Dr Noel Fernandes Fund has $ 13,039.55. Many alumni have also contributed to set up a trust fund in US for the benefit of St. John's Medical College. The current Trust Fund balance is 56,395.64. Mostly through these financial resources, many faculty from Bangalore have been able to visit the US for short-term training, while we have been able to send equipments and books to St Johns and also establish scholarships to poor students.
The highlight of the morning was the release of “Yatra” – the first ever magazine of the SJMC Alumni Association, North American Chapter. We hope to make this a regular feature at our meetings and unanimously voted to include a new post of Magazine Secretary to coordinate this effort.
New elections were then held for various posts. The newly elected committee includes: President - Willie Gomes; Vice President - Anil Britto; Secretary - Angelo Patil; Treasurer – Jimmy Khandalwala; Communication Sec. – Ragaven Baliga; and Magazine Sec – Felicia Ann Ambrose. Our heartiest congratulations once again to the new committee.
For the first time we were able to make our reunion both a fun and educational event by including a CME session in the afternoon. Topics included:
# HCV – Diagnosis, Natural History and Management: Paul J. Thuluvath, M.D., F.R.C.P, Associate Professor, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine;
# Depression – Diagnosis and Management: Gita Jayaram, M.D., Associate Professor, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and
# Coronary Artery Disease Among Asians: Ragaven Baliga, MD., Assistant Professor, University of Michigan.
The CME’s were well attended and hopefully will be a standard fixture at all our future meetings. A few people were able to run away and fit a game of tennis and golf between the CME and dinner!
The evening was very extraordinary with a cocktail hour followed by an elegant sit down banquet attended by 118 adults and 31 kids. Some great dancing with DJ music till midnight enlivened the evening. Past midnight some memories of our hostel days were rekindled with some soul searching and moving singsong spearheaded by Gladwyn Baptist and his merry men - maybe a little too merry! The evening’s festivities came to a close at 4:00 am
THE MORNING AFTER:
The next morning was no different from what any of us would have done while in St. Johns. The same folk, who were partying till 4:00 am, woke up at 7 a.m. to attend mass said by Fr. Kalam at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (only in this case Peter’s room). Following mass was breakfast in the mess – only in this case a cruise down the river in a big ‘Paddle Boat’, New Orleans style. Breakfast however was very Indian – Kapi, Vada, Idli, and Sambhar! Of course there was another singsong this time by a very hung over Gladwyn and his merry men! Lunch too was served on the boat with great Kerala style fish curry before the flame was put out till the next reunion.
We missed you if you did not come and look forward to all alumni showing up for the next reunion in Omaha Nebraska in the summer of 2004. Take care and please make every effort to stay in touch and let us know if you would be willing to volunteer to help by donating some of your time to helping us coordinate our activities.
Peter and I would like to thank each and every one of you who made Baltimore 2002 possible. It was really gratifying to see the huge turn out and hope that similar participation will continue at future events. We also wish to thank all those who helped us in our various activities during our term – there are too many to thank individually here. Of course in the interests of our own health we would like to thank our respective wives, Lygia and Maya, for putting up with us and supporting and encouraging us through our activities as part of the Alumni Association over the past 2 years.
We are including an electronic copy of “Yatra” and some pictures from the reunion – hope you will like them.
Till next time then…
Peter, Jijo, and The Ex Committee.