A few years back, when we published a profile of Uri Caine C’81, the avant-garde jazz pianist and composer made a few unflattering remarks about Penn’s music department—relating to a perceived hostility toward jazz but also to a more general prejudice against the performance (as opposed to the composition or study) of music. “[T]hey had almost a bias against instrumentalists as being somehow just the tradespeople of music, while they were the great theoreticians,” he recalled.
The article appeared in the January/February 2001 issue. As it happens, it was soon after that that freelancer Karen Rile C’80 places her sense that “something was up” in the department relating to the role of performance—a new tune that has seen the addition of opportunities for students to hone their own performing skills and that has brought music to venues across campus, enriching the experience of both listeners and performers.
Karen, who teaches fiction-writing at Penn and whose novel, Winter Music, deals with the classical-music world, details those efforts in this issue’s cover story, “Expect to Hear Music.” They include new advanced classes in performance; resident artists like the highly regarded string ensemble, the Cassatt Quartet; a burgeoning interest in campus musical groups; and a new departmental position of associate chair for performance.
It’s a commonplace when talking about healthcare to link the advance of medical technology with a concomitant decline in the doctor-patient relationship. Today’s medical students know more than ever but don’t get much chance to see what it’s like to practice medicine on real people. “You can study diseases in textbooks, but you can only understand illness by talking to patients,” says Dr. Paul Lanken, who serves as assistant dean for professionalism and humanism in the School of Medicine.
Lanken directs a four-year course called “Doctoring” designed to help students cope with the ethical and professional challenges of medical practice, and also heads a new program called Longitudinal Experience to Appreciate Patient Perspectives.
In “LEAPP of Faith,” freelancer Huntly Collins, a former health reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, tells how the program—considered among the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation—matches pairs of medical students with chronically ill patients who volunteer to participate. The idea is that the students will maintain contact with “their” patients throughout their medical education, visiting them at home or another patient-chosen location, following them during clinic visits and hospitalizations, and calling them regularly. Students are also encouraged to keep a journal about their experiences; “I Want to Remember Everything,” by Defne Amado, provides a very vivid and moving description of her visit to a patient’s home.
This issue also includes our coverage of Alumni Weekend and Commencement. This year was my 25th Reunion—a fun time, certainly, but also an occasion that calls attention to the advancing years. (I overheard many comments about how old everyone else looked, and I have to agree.) But all of us can take heart from the example of Henry Gartner W’25, pictured in our photo spread on page 50 (he’s the one wearing a Penn baseball cap), who, at 97 years of age, traveled from his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, to celebrate his 80th Reunion—and to check out an admissions presentation to gauge the prospects of his great-grandson, who is thinking of applying to Penn.
Finally, I want to share the good news that senior editor Samuel Hughes’ article, “Dentist of the Purple Sage,” in the March/April 2004 issue, received a Silver Medal for Best Article of the Year from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
—John Prendergast C’80