A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Writing History


Our alumni, as always, are changing the world.

Several years ago, the Medical School commissioned a written history of medicine at Brown, all the way back to the initial 19th-century medical program. The compendium lived online in an interactive timeline until the third-party app that housed it folded (the fatal flaw of electronic publishing), but it still serves as an essential printed resource.

It was fun to pull it out again to celebrate the MD Class of 1975 in this issue. To me, it’s fascinating that the ideals and values that Dean Aronson, the Charter Twelve, and other luminaries saw as vital for Brown’s medical program—the focus on humanity, on seeking out the marginalized and most in need of care, and of tapping into all disciplines to inform the developing physician—hold true today. It’s a study in how institutions evolve while staying rooted in their foundational beliefs.

So it was odd that while looking back, I found us amid history in the making as COVID-19 began spreading in the US, having unprecedented impact on society. Obviously, concern hit our medical community first, even before the virus was widespread. Guidelines were put in place to protect medical students in clinical settings. Events were canceled swiftly because the risk of putting Rhode Island’s heath care leaders in a room together was a Very Bad Idea.

That meant one of the Medical School’s most beloved traditions, Match Day, was also canceled. Our minds told us it had to be done for safety, while our hearts mourned for the graduating students who have looked forward to their time with the band, the balloons, and the champagne. It feels like a cosmic metaphor for the many fun events and moments with friends and family these new physicians will miss because of their chosen profession.

As I write this in May, we are in week eight of our quarantine, and there is still so much uncertainty. It’s too soon to write a moving synthesis of what has occurred, because it’s still happening. We are now living history.


Thanks for the latest edition, especially about “retirement.” I have always wondered what it might be. Would this be what I do when (if) I grow up? I’m not there yet. Maybe it is time to start thinking about it—maybe not. Having practiced family medicine in southeastern Connecticut since finishing my residency at Brown, I’m not sure I know how or when to stop, or if I should. There are relationships that go back 40-plus years. Milestones passed; births, funerals, weddings, and just being part of the community. What will happen to all that? Nice to know that I’m not alone.

—Peter J. Gates ’68 RES’78, MD
via email


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