Gift of couches bonds hundreds of medical students through the years
Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2020
Bonding and support have always been essential to the med school experience. No one knew this better than the Class of ‘64, a tight-knit bunch from the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine who studied together, hung out together—and to this day, remain together as great friends.
In 1963, the group spotted an opportunity to help fellow medical students experience the close ties they themselves enjoyed.
The medical library had just moved out of the basement of the medical building on Nicholas Street. Spying the vacant space, then-president of the Aesculapean Society (ASOC) Phil Fleishman had a thought.
“We med students really didn’t have a place to gather,” recalls Fleishman, now a retired plastic surgeon who specialized in burn and trauma surgery. “At our next society meeting, we discussed asking the University if we could use the space to create a common room where medical students could meet, hang out and hold various functions.”
Fleishman approached then-dean Jean-Jacques Lussier, who supported the idea. What happened next would not only create a space for students to gather, but also begin a decades-long tradition of giving.
“We immediately launched a fundraising effort to furnish this new space. By approaching local businesses and pharmaceutical companies, we were able to raise around $5000, a huge sum at the time,” Fleishman says.
Furnishings were selected and purchased with the help of an interior designer, the wife of one of the medical students. Sofas, armchairs, soft décor, pictures and lamps were all brought into the space, creating a huge living room for the medical students to enjoy.
The new lounge launched in May 1964.
“I remember the exact date as I had just finished my exams,” says Fleishman.
Five years later, the group returned for their first reunion. They were pleased to see a great number of students enjoying the space together.
“Students count on each other for support through the intensity of medical training,” says Fleishman. “Back in those days, it was a matter of survival to graduate, with many learners weeded out never to return.”
The group’s strong camaraderie continues to this day.
“Securing funding to furnish the lounge was our first foray into the good feelings of giving, leaving something for subsequent classes,” says Fleishman. “After we graduated, my colleagues Dr. Tom Dufour and Dr. Lionel Lavoie started the group thinking how we could continue to give back to the University—after all, they gave us our profession.”
The medical class of 1964 is one of several classes that have established funds over the years. Since its inception, the “Medical Class of 1964 Scholarship”, which provides financial assistance to University of Ottawa medical students who qualify under the terms established by the Ontario Trust Student Support, has helped almost 40 students.
The Class of ‘64 remains very closely bonded. Most recently, a group gathered at the Faculty’s Homecoming celebrations in October 2019 to socialize, share their successes, and recall fond memories of med school.
“It’s like walking back in time,” Dr. Fleishman says. “It’s fun to reminisce!”
Main photo: The uOttawa medical building (now Vanier Hall) on Nicholas Street as it was in 1964. Published with the permission of the Aesculapean Society of the University of Ottawa.