Collage of UC Davis School of Medicine archival photos, celebrating 50 years
Faculty memories

Timothy E. Albertson, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.

A 45-year reflection on the University of California, Davis School of Medicine

In September of 1973, I started medical school here at Davis. Fellow classmates included Robin Hansen (Pediatrics) and Garen Wintemute (Emergency Medicine), who also are current faculty here. Our classes the first two years were housed in temporary buildings (still being used) on the Davis campus.

One of the things that struck me as a 21-year-old new to Davis/Sacramento was an orientation bus ride to the Sacramento Medical Center, as the hospital was called then. It was purchased by the Regents of the University of California from the County of Sacramento a few months before for a single dollar (some said they paid too much as the County had stopped paying their bills several months before).

As our class of new medical students was given the tour of the hospital, which was limited at that time to the North/South and East wings, I was struck that some of the beds in the rooms were manually cranked up and down, and that some of the North/South wings had five to six patients in a room. I did not know much about hospitals in those days, but I had never seen such manual beds or large number of patients per room in the San Diego VA or the UC San Diego hospital where I had volunteered, and I wondered what third world country I had landed in for my medical education.

The curriculum was organ system-based and generally a half day with some clinical assignments that would fill out a few of the days each week. It gave us time for organized events such as intramural sports — our touch football team was pretty good and as this picture recently given to me by Garen (yes we are both in it) shows, our hair was kept short and styled.

I even had time to get a Master of Science degree in pharmacology and toxicology during the first three years of medical school. No one worried about part one of the National Boards other than they represented a day we did not have lectures. It was a different educational time in Davis then.

Over the last 45 years, I have spent my time in Davis/Sacramento with a couple of years at the University of Arizona as an intern and first year resident in Internal Medicine, with the rest here as a Ph.D. student, resident, fellow and faculty. The first two years of medical school are now spent in Sacramento and not Davis, with some pluses and some negatives.

The hospital is clearly huge compared to my first few years here and represents a real state-of-the-art academic medical center. But one thing seems to remain and that is the faculty, students, nurses and other professionals remain friendly and a great bunch of people to be associated with every day.

Eric Gershwin, M.D.

I was headed from NIH — where I was a post-doc in rheumatology and immunology — to Stanford in the fall of 1974 to begin an oncology fellowship. On a lark I called the new medical school at Davis and asked if there was a rheumatology department and a need for a new recruit. I spoke to Jim Castles, subsequently a life-long friend, and was told to hop on a plane and come out. No formal recruitments back then.

I flew out, within a week met Jim and our first chair of medicine, Bob Bolt. Jim told Bob that I would become an “Al Kaline;” Bob was from Michigan and Al Kaline was a Detroit baseball great. Bob grabbed my hand and told Jim to “get me, whatever it cost.” They asked what I wanted, and I asked for a 55-gallon fish tank for my office. In the end the School of Medicine set up a fantastic aquarium that I have to this day, 45 years later.

There were other practicing rheumatologists back then, but I became the first board certified rheumatologist in Sacramento. I formally came onboard in 1975 but in 1976 the school lost its only allergist and I agreed to develop Allergy-Clinical Immunology into a formal fellowship.

I was also assured that the temporary building we were using in Davis would be defunct in three years. In the end we spent 35 years in there (nothing is more permanent than a temporary building) and I have remained chief of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology for 37 years, training more than 100 fellows in rheumatology or allergy, and another 100 Post-docs or Ph.D. students in basic immunology.

In 1975 I would not have trusted the medical center to wash my car. Today, and for many years, my family and I have trusted their care for my life and it has been fantastic care. It has been truly overwhelming to be part of a fledging new enterprise and see it grow to become a great and inspiring institution.

Hanne M. Jensen, M.D.

Reflection on the Early Years of UC Davis School of Medicine

I became assistant professor of pathology July 1, 1969, at which time the first class of 52 students had finished the first year of medical school. Teaching took place in temporary one-story buildings on the Davis campus and the lecture hall was the site of the monthly faculty meeting conducted by Dean C. John Tupper. All faculty members went to that meeting and were inspired and entertained by Dean Tupper’s enthusiasm, high-level energy and showmanship. There was standing room only since volunteer faculty also participated.

Dr. Lois O’Grady, hematology-oncology, was the only female clinical faculty with hospital privileges among the 30 regular faculty members in 1969. I was among three other women faculty married to men with School of Medicine faculty appointments. I was assigned to research on breast cancer with the pathology department chair, Dr. Sefton R. Wellings, for the first year. In 1970, Mary Tupper, the dean’s wife, asked me to lecture to the members of her Faculty Wives Club. Breast cancer, lactation and development of the fetus were the topics. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to teach histology to medical students, and subsequently I became a regular instructor of medical student pathology sessions.

In particular, I recall how progressive Dean Tupper was. One innovative program offered minority students the opportunity to participate in a three-week, all-day intensive introductory course to assist their acclimation to the rigors of medical school. Along with two minority male faculty members, I was especially proud to teach this course for several years. I mentored several students and stayed in touch with one of the students over time.

I especially remember with fondness the elegant parties Dean Tupper held for the faculty at the El Macero Country Club or poolside at his residence. It was one of the highlights of the year, and we all wore our finest attire!

Jerold Last, Ph.D.

With a split campus — the hospital and clinics in Sacramento and the research facilities mainly on the Davis campus — many of us have minimal or no exposure to undergraduate and graduate students in our daily schedules. My career has taught me that it’s worth the effort to find ways to overcome the geographical and time constraints that promote this separation.

When I was initially recruited to UC Davis for pulmonary medicine, like Star Trek, space was the final frontier. Carroll Cross and I were assigned laboratory and office space at the Primate Center, at the far western end of the Davis campus. It was several miles away from the main campus, so was far from a perfect place to start a teaching and research career. But it proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we had to collaborate with faculty from the School of Veterinary Medicine to survive. And that forced collaboration shaped my future career in new directions I never anticipated before arriving at Davis. I arrived here thinking my academic career would be as a biochemist studying collagen synthesis in fibrotic lungs; I found myself trying to balance my interests in collagen synthesis with new major foci in the areas of lung toxicology and animal models of lung injury and repair. Surprisingly, the toxicology studies have earned me more national and international awards and recognition than has the collagen work.

Time passed and the lung toxicology work led me to a position as the first director of one of the largest multi-campus research programs in the University of California, the Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program. I served in that role for almost twenty years, learning about collaboration across nine of the UC campuses and three National Laboratories while developing lasting friendships with several colleagues in this program. I also was blessed with new friends and mentors from the program’s internal and external advisory committees, especially the members from UC Berkeley, UCLA and Los Alamos National Laboratory. This experience led me to become active in the Academic Senate, both at UC Davis and for the entire UC system. These exposures to the Academic Senates taught me a great deal about how university governance was supposed to function, and how it actually worked.

What was the most important lesson from all of these experiences? It’s easy to get very isolated from the university itself in the medical school where everybody is too busy and the main campus is too far away to take the time to get involved with the 35,000-odd students in Davis or the faculty researchers and teachers based there. But, if you don’t make that effort, you’ll miss out on many of the most rewarding parts of being a faculty member at this great university we are all a part of.

Judy Van de Water, Ph.D.

One might say that I “grew up” in the UC Davis School of Medicine. It was here that I got my first job after getting my Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences, and it was under the mentorship of Eric Gershwin in the Department of Internal Medicine that I received my Ph.D. in immunology. Now, as a faculty member in the same department, with the support and guidance of many present and past department chairs, deans and associate deans, I have built my own successful research program.

I have known many wonderful leaders, some of whom are no longer with us, and built so many amazing friendships and collaborations during my tenure in the School of Medicine. One of my favorite memories during my time as a graduate student is something that our late dean, Hibbard Williams said to me: “You must stand by your decisions on an issue and not waffle back and forth, because you do not want to appear to be indecisive just to try to appease everyone.” I took those words to heart and they have served me very, very well.

Staff memories

Edward D. Dagang

Photo of Edward Dagang and Ami BeraI’m a “lifer” — my UC Davis experience started at the age of 18 in the fall of 1976 as a Division of Biological Science student, then I graduated in December 1980. My UC Davis career started in 1982 and after 36 years I became a University retiree. I retired in 2018 with many heartfelt wonderful memories of being a UC Davis student and employee.

PHOTO: Edward Dagang and then-Associate Dean of Admissions, Ami Bera, now Congressman Bera, at the first Induction/White Ceremony at the School of Medicine in 2006.