U Magazine
U Magazine
UCLA Health
David Geffen School of Medicine

I Remember CHS

RONALD REAGAN UCLA MEDICAL CENTER opened in June 2008. But for some 50 years before that, the Center for the Health Sciences (CHS) was where generations of physicians received their training at UCLA. That’s five decades worth of memories that were created in the tick-tack-toe layout of the 11-story building and live on in the lives of our alumni.

My first memories of CHS were when I was an undergraduate at UCLA. I used to spend hours studying in the bowels of the Bio Med Library, and as an undergraduate hospital orderly, I would challenge myself to find quicker routes to get from one area to another. As a medical student, I found CHS to be massive but well-organized. I remember the distinctive smell of the different labs, especially the anatomy lab. I remember how intimate and small the lecture rooms and classes were compared to the massive rooms and large numbers of students we had as undergraduates at UCLA. I can remember feeling very honored that I could play even a small role in such a large, sophisticated and well-respected medical center.
– Valdemar Ascencio, M.D. ’75
Chairman, Department of Plastic Surgery
Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, Laguna Hills, California

Having just graduated from UCLA Medical School in 1955, I became one of the first interns in the newly opened CHS. Nobody knew where anything was, and we had to search around to try to find things. There was only one cafeteria, which served patients, families and also nurses and doctors, so we all ate together, which was quite friendly and open. It was still a rather small hospital, and all the interns knew each other well. When I finished my internship, I continued at CHS as a resident physician for several years. We worked like hell and had a great spirit of togetherness and setting standards as pioneers.
– Marsden Wagner, M.D. ’55
Director of Women’s and Children’s Health
World Health Organization

What I remember most about CHS was the camaraderie that existed among the staff. Nurses, nurses’ aides, ward clerks, residents, interns, subinterns quickly formed lasting bonds and created a true team approach to care. During those times when patients did poorly, or even died, these bonds provided an outlet for the terrible loneliness and fear that comes with being a doctor for the first time. When success came, a brilliant diagnosis or a good outcome of a lifethreatening illness, we all regaled each other. Staff is what makes a medical center great and glorious. As the old CHS gives way to the new Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the tradition of excellence and caring fostered will be carried over not by concrete, steel or cable but by the individuals who occupy the structures.
– Richard J. Glassock, M.D. ’60
Laguna Niguel, California

When I completed my medical-school education, I became an intern at the new UCLA Medical Center. It was a modern, up-todate hospital, but the only major problem was that the current level of intensive-care units had not been developed. Late one evening, I admitted an elderly man with an acute myocardial infarction who had coded and had been resuscitated by his son. I was worried about his unstable condition, and I decided to sleep in the same room with him. Fortunately, he was in a twin-bed room. I spent about a week as his “roommate,” looking in on him frequently. By the end of the week, his cardiac status improved, and he was discharged. The gentleman gave me the gift of a suitcase when I went away for two years for research training.
– Sid Gilman, M.D. ’57
Director, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

In our sophomore year, student groups were assigned to study histology/pathology in a remodeled bathroom – very tight, with a table holding several of our own microscopes where we would review the slides together. To keep ourselves alert, we often would sing silly songs – songs like “These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things.” Classmate Loretta Milburn, M.D. ’62, also remembers when a visitor touring the medical school fainted upon entering the anatomy lab during lunch break just as one of the students working on a cadaver picked up a chicken leg from his lunch and started eating it!
– Lucia Carpenter-Dean, M.D. ’62
MAA President, 1997-’98
Current MAA Board Member


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