After 24 years as dean of the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Sherman Mellinkoff was honored Saturday with a black-tie dinner, speeches from friends and a plaque to commemorate his work. All this for a man who, as one associate put it, "hates these kinds of things."
Mellinkoff is stepping down at the end of June "to get back into the things of my own profession." The tribute was given by Aesculapians, a support group for the school, at its annual dinner dance at the Beverly Hilton.
Mellinkoff pulled off the job of being the center of attention with aplomb. After a yearlong sabbatical to be spent in New Zealand, Australia, England and around the United States studying clinical medicine programs, Mellinkoff will return to UCLA as a full-time professor of medicine. Succeeding him as dean is Dr. Kenneth Shine, chairman of the UCLA department of medicine.
About 900 Aesculapians (named for Aesculapius, god of medicine in Greek and Roman mythology), made up of faculty, friends and alumni of the school, turned out for the tribute. Dinner co-chairs were Robert Ahmanson, president of the Ahmanson Foundation; and Caroline Nahas, vice president and partner of Korn/Ferry International. Honorary chairman was Dr. Franklin Murphy.
Before the benefit, Mellinkoff said: "To be candid, I am somewhat embarrassed that they're making such a fuss about this. But I am touched they are taking special notice of my stepping down." He added that he feels optimistic about the future of the school.
A Crowd of Friends
During the reception, Mellinkoff's friends crowded into a small room to greet him and his wife, June.
Norman Cousins, author and adjunct professor of medicine at UCLA, said: "I'm more than sorry to see him go; I'm disconsolate. He was the one who brought me here. I was about to go to the Columbia School of Medicine when Dr. Murphy (who is on the board of visitors of the School of Medicine) suggested that before I make up my mind I come out here. I was completely seduced by (Mellinkoff). Not only that, he gave me a parking card."
Dr. Mitchel D. Covel, associate dean for clinical affairs and chairman of the Aesculapians, explained that while the school is in the black financially, funds raised by the Aesculapians are considered "unrestricted," which means the dean may use them "where the needs are greatest;" for recruiting faculty, helping out needy students or for research. All other money from grants or from state and federal governments is pre-designated. Covel said he expected to net $250,000 from this evening.
Shine, Dr. William Longmire Jr., professor emeritus of the department of surgery, Dr. Peter S. Bing and UCLA Chancellor Charles Young lauded Mellinkoff for his accomplishments, which include expanding the faculty and revising the school's curriculum. Young announced a $1-million endowed professorship in medicine at UCLA (the money was raised by Mellinkoff's friends), and he will recommend to the UC Board of Regents that Mellinkoff be named the first recipient.