Tag Archives: medical school

Steve Falters on Dermatology, Kids Contract Chicken Pox

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, Harley Smith and Marcia Duncan also pictured, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

All his exams were oral and his graduation was also a combination of a—he had to represent his dissertation to a panel of medical doctors. And you could invite all your friends to come. Uncle Harley came over from France for his graduation.

So he sits at a table with this horseshoe of professors and he has to answer questions on his dissertation. Then they pronounced him with his medical degree. Then friends of ours brought a big laurel wreath, Italian friends, and put it around him. We probably have some pictures with us.

[Heidi]: Then they kicked him out of medical school.

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Yes, that’s right. They had a tradition of all your friends line up in two rows and you run down between them and they kick you out of medical school.

Dawn, actually, was about three then, three and a half, and Heidi had just been born. Heidi was supposed to be born after he finished his final exams, but Heidi came a few days early. Heidi was born at something like, what, two o’clock in the morning? Then he had, that morning, he had—was it a pharmacology exam?

[Steve]: Dermatology.

A dermatology exam. So he walks into his examination and the professor asked him, “What happened to you?” because he’d been up most of the night. He said, “I just had a baby!”

Heidi was—basically we had to wait a month before we could fly home, in terms of her age.

We went home via France to visit Harley and Betty one more time.

[Dawn]: We got to stay there extra long.

We got to stay there extra long because one morning we woke up and Dawn had a pock on her face. Lo and behold, she had broken out with chicken pox, so we had to wait until she was no longer contagious before we could get on the flight.

[Stephanie]: Way to go, Dawn.

[TJ]: You all know that you’re eligible for shingles later on?

[Dawn]: I know it. My mother-in-law. . . .

[Stephanie]: Looking forward to it.

[TJ]: Patti had shingles and before it she had chicken pox. When she did, they kept me away from them. I didn’t have chicken pox.

[Victoria]: Maybe you did.

[Virginia?]: I never have had any.

Heidi, at a month old, eventually had one little pock on her face, so I don’t know if that means she had chicken pox or not. Kimberly and Stephanie got it in [Ben Lippen] high school.

[Stephanie]: Our junior year. We both came down with the chicken pox.

[Virginia?]: Ohhhhh. At the same time, huh?

[Stephanie]: Well, we had house-parents and their kids had chicken pox. I babysat for them. I think that’s how it all went down. It’s a little confusing because there were a bunch of people who came down at the same time with it. I was babysitting for them. Also a friend of mine. It was going around the school. It was the only thing I ever came down with in high school. I never even had a cold all through the years we were there. But it came through this particular set of house parents and their children. A bunch of us got it at the same time, but it was right before our final exams our junior year. I just remember that because I was in agony trying to study and we got it bad.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with interjections from Steve, Dawn, Heidi, and Stephanie (Steve’s daughters), Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter), TJ Ramey (Kathryn’s son), and Victoria his wife; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Any other Smith and Steve Duncan family stories from the “extra long” stay in France?
  • Anyone else have chicken pox or other childhood/epidemic diseases stories?
  • Any other stories from the trip home?
  • Mom and Dad/Marcia and Steve, can you send digital copies of the laurel wreath and kicking out photos for this story? Thanks.
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Put on a Little Accent, Ace Medical School

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

[Steve]: When I got out of the military, I finished up my degree at Boston University. Then I started to do some graduate work in psychology, also at Boston University. I then met Marcia on that blind date. You remember that story? Perhaps.

[Eric]: No, I don’t.

[Steve]: Well, Marcia.

[Marcia]: You want me to tell that story?

[Steve]: You want Marcia to tell that story? It’ll be her turn to tell the story.

[Multiple Voices]: Yeah! Tell it. Tell it.

[Steve]: She’ll probably tell the truth. Yup.

We dated for four months. I asked her . . . to marry her and then I went off to Peru. To escape.

[Virginia]: To get away from that.

[Eric]: You got cold feet.

[Steve]: I got cold feet, yeah. [Laughter.] In fact she got a little bit of cold feet while I was away in Peru.

[Heidi]: And we just found out Aunt Polly—the whole time—was like, “That was the worst mistake! He shouldn’t have done it!” And was praying fervently during the whole time he was in Peru.

[Virginia]: Is that right?!

[Stephanie?]: Praying about what?

[Heidi]: Aunt Polly was like, “Oh, yeah, when he left for Peru, I just thought ‘What is he doing?’ so I prayed and I prayed and I prayed because they should get married.” That’s what Aunt Polly said.

[Virginia?]: Oh, oh, oh, I thought she was praying against them.

[Heidi]: No. No. No. Because she just thought. . . .

[Virginia?]: I thought, “What’s she have against you that . . . ?”

[Marcia]: Bob and Aunt Polly always said they were Mr. and Mrs. Cupid because they got us together and so she was probably worried that it was going to fall apart.

[Virginia?]: They set up this blind date?

[Heidi]: Yes.

[Marcia]: Yes.

[Steve]: Oh, yeah.

[Marcia]: I’ll tell you the story when you pass it to me.

[Steve]: When it’s her turn.

So then when we did get married in December of 1966, we were married for—I don’t know—six months or seven months. And then I had applied for medical school here, but at the time there were 15, 14 applications to get into medical school for every person that got in. So it was very difficult to get into medical school. I went to try to get into Italy, of all places, a historically medical area and got in. So we went to Italy, Marcia and I. It was there that Dawn—no, Dawn was born back in the States and we came home.

[Mary Lynn]: How’d you learn enough Italian to do that?

[Steve, puts on Italian accent]: It’s a-just-a talkin’ about what-a you talkin’ about in English, but then you put on a little accent and you all set.

[Victoria]: He looks like Italian. He really looks like Italian.

[T. J.]: I’ve always been impressed that he was able to pull that off.

[Mary Lynn]: Can you both speak Italian?

[Stephanie]: Only when he’s trying to speak Portuguese.

[Steve]: Only when I’m trying to speak Portuguese, that’s right. We had to learn Portuguese, so it became very difficult to maintain the Italian. In fact, the Italian did come out when I was speaking in a group.

[Mary Lynn]: Did you go to language school before you went to medical school?

[Steve]: I learned a little bit of Italian before we left, before I left, and when I got there, before I started medical school—just a couple of months, I learned some more Italian.

[Mary Lynn?]: So you went to Italy with Dawn?

[Marcia]: No. Dawn wasn’t born. We had only been married for a few months when we went.

[Steve]: So it was three years [before Dawn was born].

[Marcia]: We were married December ’66 and went to Italy for September of the following year.

[Steve]: So we stayed in Italy and it was more than four years. It was six years total with internship there. Pardon?

[Heidi]: So they were there and then came back to the States to have Dawn and then went back to Angola. I mean Italy.

[T. J.]: All the classes were taught in Italian, right?

[Steve]: Italian. Actually, there was one of the first classes, the guy wanted to show how much he knew of English and he spoke to some of us in English, but the rest—no, it was the exam. He called the exam—I would give the exam, or take the exam in front of four or six professors and a class full of students behind me and, but one of the first ones was in English. He was trying to show off how much he knew of English, so that was a help.

[Virginia?]: Were there other students, then, that were American?

[Steve]: American, yeah. There were about 20.

[Marcia]: 30.

[Steve]: 20 or 30?

[Marcia]: Maybe 20. With the spouses there were 30.

[Steve]: In that area. And there were many in Italy, in Bologna, a place in central Italy. So Dawn was born back in the States—we went back—and Heidi was born in Italy. She says she was born in a boot, like ‘course the shape of Italy is a book, so that’s her little poem.

[Marcia]: I just wanted to add about the language. You were asking about the language. In addition to him taking those 6 weeks of language study before he left, he always said that the advantages were that they used American and British texts for medical school. So he just bought his texts in English. They had to buy them, the Italians bought the translated copies. Then everything is Latin-based. You know, the medical language is Latin-based, so that made it easier also. He used the medical terms that were Latin. And then the exams were all oral. There wasn’t that much written material, so and it’s easier to speak than to write it out if you’re living in the culture. As he said, there were several, you know, professors that wanted you to know that they could speak English; then they would let you do your exam in English. There were a few, you know, that were saying, “This is Italy, so you do it in Italian.” There were some advantages that we had that way.

story told by Steve, Marcia [Steve’s wife], and Heidi [Steve’s daughter] to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Somebody tell the story of the letters going back and forth to Peru? Dad sending Grammy MacGregor a blank letter and all the missionaries tuning in to listen to Lee read Marcia’s letters to Dad, when he was out in the jungle.
  • Dad/Steve or Mum/Marcia, do you want to tell more stories from Italy? The hungry times when a bag of groceries were left? Sleeping under your coats? Teaching English? Balancing grocery bags on the bicycle? Going to the symphony for cheap and the audience yelling ‘piu’? Shopping at the PX? Traveling to the Swiss Alps? Harley and Betty and the peanut butter? Dawn’s diapers in the trunk at the border crossing? Going to your exam after Heidi was born?
  • Any other Italy, speaking Italian stories?
  • Anybody else have language learning difficulty or goof-up stories to share?

The Legend of Steve

Steve Kilted, n. d., courtesy of Colin Duncan

Steve Kilted, n. d., courtesy of Colin Duncan

I’ve always been proud and I’ve told friends of mine, particularly guys in the Lodge, because—a lot of you don’t know I’m a Mason and I’m an instructor in Masonic work. Every once in a while, I get a new guy who comes in and I instruct him in his work. And sometime they start bellyaching about how hard it is, how long it takes for them to memorize stuff and all that.

I say “Let me tell you a story about a relative of mine, who tried to get in medical school in the States and he had too many Bs on his grade card.” This is the story I heard. Anyway, “but he was accepted by a medical school in Italy. The only trouble is he didn’t speak Italian. So he went over there and learned enough Italian, had a tutor to help him, and went through four years of med school. He graduated, got his license, came back to the States and took his boards, and got a license here, and became a medical missionary in Africa.” And I said, “If he could do all that, surely you can learn this work.”

[Laughter]

[Kathy]: There you go! The story of Uncle Steve.

story told by T. J. Ramey [Kathryn’s son] to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Dad, you tell us the story now. Let’s hear it in your words.
  • Anyone else have a family story that got a little lofty or mangled in the re-telling? Tell us the story. How did you discover the “legend”? How was it different from your experience or your hearing of the story?