‘Golden Grads’ marvel at alma mater’s evolutionPublished on Monday, August 31, 2015By: Gary Pettus, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in News Stories on August 31, 2015At Friday's medical school alumni reunion, Dr. Milt Roby carefully studied the Class of 1965's group portrait, trying to reconcile the present with the past.After the passage of 50 years, it's hard to say which has changed more: the face of the Medical Center or the faces of his classmates."I'm afraid I'll see them and not know them," he said.Roby, who lives in Flowood with his wife Mary, belongs to of one of six classes recognized last week during two days of tours, receptions, dinners and formal ceremonies that brought home to many how much their alma mater has been transformed.Dr. Gary Nye, left, Class of '65, makes a point with fourth-year medical student Lance Majors, center, and Hannah Greene, an M3.Dr. Gary Nye of Orinda Calif., also Class of '65, seemed pleased to learn that the current School of Medicine has a graduation rate of well over 90 percent. He was among the 86 or so students who entered medical school in 1961; only about 58 made it out."It looks like you've created a healthy support system here," he said.Another Class of '65 alumnus, Dr. Warren Todd of Birmingham, Ala., now retired from his practice in pediatric infectious diseases, grew up in Jackson and "watched the medical center being built. There were three buildings when I got here," he said.Today, the 160-acre campus is occupied by six schools - including a new School of Medicine scheduled for completion in 2017. It's also home to four major hospitals, an organ transplant program, more than a dozen research centers and institutes, a police station, a chapel, maintenance facilities and more.Hannah Green, left, a medical student volunteer, visits with Dr. Frazier Ward, Class of '65.This year, the School of Medicine accepted 147 students - nearly double Todd's entering class - and has a total enrollment of 547, many of whom come to class in sandals and shorts.Todd had to wear a tie.After earning an undergraduate grade point average of approximately 4.8 on a 5-point scale in mechanical engineering, Todd had figured he was medical school material "But at one point, I thought I was going to flunk out," he said. On a tour of the Simulation and Interprofessional Education Center, one of Todd's classmates, Dr. George Smith of Jackson, wondered aloud if "they could simulate for duck hunting. That would be great." Smith, still in practice as a facial plastic surgeon and ENT, said, "It sounds like it's a lot more fun to be a medical student now; it's a lot more interactive."And the perception of the university has changed; it was thought of at one time as the charity hospital; now it's the premier research and medical institution in the state."Dr. James Keeton, left, wears the medallion he has just received from his successor, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.Staged Friday and Saturday by the Office of Alumni Affairs, the event also recognized the classes of '75, '85, '90, '95 and 2005. But the spotlight was on the "Golden Grads" of 50 years ago, including Dr. James Keeton, who stepped down recently as vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.In tribute to their service, his successor, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, presented medallions to each of the two dozen in attendance at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson."Some of the most significant changes at the Medical Center occurred during your time," Woodward said in her address to the alumni. Milestones included the integration of patients, the first animal-to-human heart transplant, the first lung transplant, the opening of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the attempt to save the life of mortally wounded civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and more.Among the buildings constructed during their tenure here were the men's dorm, married housing and a research wing.Since graduating, 13 of their classmates have passed away; they were also honored that night: Frank Bradley Baker, who died shortly before he was to receive his M.D., Dr. Julius Marvin Collum, Dr. Wade Stokes Garner, Dr. James Louis Hemphill, Dr. Bobbie Ray Little, Dr. James N. McLeod III, Dr. Dean Riley McMillan, Dr. Patricia Moynihan, Dr. Marcelene J. O'Neal, Dr. John Elton Rawson, Dr. Vernon F. Ross, Dr. L.E. Stringer and Dr. James Dale Wakham.Pointing to portraits of past UMMC leaders, Dr. James Keeton, left, enlightens a group of alumni and spouses during a tour of the Medical Center. Among those looking on are Dr. Charles B. Itzig Jr., center, and Mary Abraham, right, wife of Dr. Ralph Ellis Abraham.