Just a couple months past the halfway mark of their first year of Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship, four physicians were suddenly confronted with a much different set of circumstances than they first envisioned when they applied. The global pandemic of COVID-19 was felt nowhere more acutely than in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and those first-year fellows, now this year’s graduates, found themselves on the front lines treating wave after wave of people with life-threatening infections.
Two-plus years later and those seasoned graduates received the celebration they were owed. Faculty, family, colleagues, and even a few Internal Medicine residents gathered on the rooftop of a hotel offering a view of nearby Kinnick Stadium, the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and the rest of UI Hospitals & Clinics.
During the opening social hour, guests were treated to a jazz combo and the chance to catch up and introduce loved ones to colleagues.
Once everyone was seated, newly installed Division Director David Stoltz, MD, PhD, welcomed everyone to the event and offered congratulations both to that evening’s honorees and the rest of the division for their extraordinary efforts over the last year. He then turned the podium over to Fellowship Program Director Alicia Gerke, MD, who would serve as the evening’s emcee for most of the rest of the evening. Gerke also offered a long list of thank-yous, including to her recent predecessor Jeffrey Wilson, MD, who had served this year as an associate program director and source of counsel to Gerke.
Gerke ran through a list of division accomplishments, awards and research grants won, national recognitions, and new additions to the growing division family. In the absence of Herbert Berger, MD, it also fell to Gerke to award the annual My Pillow / Sleep Medicine award to Bryce Duchman, MD, the graduating fellow who completed his Sleep Clinic requirements before his co-fellows. She also named Raul Villacreses, MD, the faculty member chosen by the fellows as Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
And then it was time for the graduates. As per program tradition, Gerke revealed details and sometimes photographic evidence from each fellow’s childhood supplied by parents, siblings, and partners. Also per tradition, faculty members who served as each fellow’s research mentor on a project were also invited to speak, emphasizing the program’s commitment to research as well as to clinical training. Graduates and their families were then invited up for a photograph with program and division leadership under challenging lighting conditions. One graduate, Michael Catlin, MD, was unfortunately unable to attend that evening.
Another annual tradition, entertainment from Thomas Gross, MD, was up next. After giving newcomers a brief history of themes and elements from previous graduations–Elton John, the Shake Weight, Lil Nas X, zombies, Prince, and more–Gross took the audience on a journey of connecting seemingly random dots and LEGO blocks to arrive at one question, “IS Everything Awesome”? Then the fellows themselves offered a few words to close the evening’s formal presentations to thank faculty and colleagues for their contributions to their time in the program. Some light roasting of the evening’s tech support, Douglas Hornick, MD, factored into the remarks.
And, as always, guests lingered for a couple more cocktails in the cooling evening air, a few more group photos, and further reminders that each of those present would do, and have done, anything for each other.
Michael Catlin, MD
Bryce Duchman, MD
Thuong Tran, DO
Peter Szachowicz, MD