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Tom Seibert and Jeanne Day Seibert

Medical Bookends for Dean Krugman

Jeanne Day Seibert, MD, with her son Thomas Seibert, MD, at his 2014 graduation. 

(May 2014) Thomas Seibert learned how much his future career had changed when he bought a desk from some graduating medical students as he was about to enter medical school.

“Mom told them she was a sole practitioner, and all three girls were shocked,” says Seibert, who graduated Friday with a medical degree from University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

 “We’re a dying breed,” agrees his mother Jeanne Day Seibert, an internal medicine practitioner in Englewood who graduated from CU School of Medicine in 1991. Most 2014 graduates will join group practices.

Graduation venue and style also changed in those years. In 1991, coolers filled with champagne bottles lined the end of each row of graduates at the Ninth Avenue Campus. In 2014, the graduation ceremony is champagne-free – at least on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Yet, some aspects of medicine aren’t very different. For example, residency hours are still long and demanding, though less so now than in Jeanne’s day thanks to national rules capping work weeks at 80 hours. 

And here at the CU School of Medicine, the dean remains the same. 

Richard Krugman, MD, considers Jeanne and Tom bookends to his career as dean. He handed Jeanne her diploma at his first graduation ceremony, and presided over his final graduation Friday. Krugman announced in January that he will step down as dean and return to faculty as a pediatrician with the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Tom and Jeanne at her 1991 graduation ceremony.

If Jeanne is a little fuzzy on what the dean said that bright May day nearly a quarter century ago, she has good reason. She’d survived five years of medical school in two different states, while raising two boys, running a household and making hundreds of cookies for medical school bake sale fundraisers.

Jeanne entered medical school at age 35 after working as a de facto nurse practitioner (“We called it clinical nurse specialist then”) through the 1970s, then as a stay-at-home mom after marrying in 1981. But she’d closely observed the doctors she’d worked with and the thought occurred to her: “I could do that, too.”

When she was accepted at George Washington University, the entire family moved, only to learn that her older son Michael had severe allergies in the humid climate. She called CU and arranged a transfer. The curriculum was not parallel, hence the five-year track.

Jeanne was the oldest student in her class with a lot of family responsibility and that impacted her career.

“If I had been young and single I would have become a surgeon,” she says.

Her 29-year-old son is young and single - though the latter only until New Year’s Eve when he marries classmate Natalia Arango – and he will go into emergency medicine. The couple will do their residencies (she’s in obstetrics-gynecology) at Louisiana State University in New Orleans.

Tom thinks his mother might have groomed him for a medical career.

They both remember a shift in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital when she was a resident. She brought both her sons in for the entire 36-hours so they could see what she did when she wasn’t home.

“I went around all night yelling ‘Stat!’ and putting stat stickers on everything,’” says Tom, who estimates he was about 10 years old. “Nothing was a routine case that night. Everything was stat.”

Jeanne remembers her sons’ reactions to a patient who needed to be intubated. Michael, now an engineer with NASA, wanted to see how the equipment worked. “Tom wondered what it felt like not to be able to breath. He was a little more sensitive.”

Comparing notes on their education, Tom and Jeanne say technology is one of the biggest changes in the last two and a half decades.

“She would talk about doing research by going to the library and pulling journals from the stacks,” he says. “I don’t even know how to find a paper journal.”

Her class assigned note-takers amongst the students. The assigned person would copy his or her notes and then hand them out to everyone. Tom’s class could watch the lectures online whenever they wanted.

“I could go skiing Tuesday and watch the lecture on Saturday,” he says.

 “I would have loved (online lectures),” Jeanne says. “I was a very neurotic medical student – most are. That would have been a tremendous advantage.”

Clinical rotations now start in the first year. “We didn’t do any clinical the first two years,” she says. And her fourth year included less interviewing and more electives and clinical rotations.

Their lifestyles probably caused the biggest differences in their medical school experiences.

“Personally, I don’t know how she did it with two kids and a husband, “ Tom says.

“His experience was better,” she says. “He had more choices. Like whoever thought you could do a rotation at Big Sky (Resort), Mont., ski area. It’s a seven-day work week but you ski half the day. Even if it had been offered, I wouldn’t have gone. I didn’t even pay attention. I hung out with the other old married women in class.”

Jeanne says her advice to graduates is to enjoy their career. “If you don’t like it you can change,” she says.

But Tom says he’s received a different message from his mother.

“She always tells me, ‘Be nice to the nurses. Nurses rule the hospital and they can make or break you.’

“I’m always nice to the nurses.”