Are Memories Priceless?

Last updated December 2013.

Life Member LogoIt was a great pleasure to see many of you at the Academy’s 60th Anniversary Meeting in Orlando, FL. Our Owl contingent and our record number of Life Member Fund supported medical student and psychiatry resident attendees made its usual exuberant showing.

The Annual LM Wisdom Perspective featured dual topics, each hosted by a “pioneer” and a “current star.” The two topics were the pediatric-psychiatry-child psychiatry Triple Board residency training program and the subspecialty of school consultations. This was well received and was specifically mentioned positively at the AACAP Residency Directors’ Luncheon. Also well received was the LM sponsored Forum: Retirement: Different Strokes for Different Folks.

Of course for Owls, the crescendo of every annual meeting is always the over-the-top Life Member Dinner. To be clear, it isn’t the food or the setting that are always over- the-top (though both are always very nice), it’s the attendees. During the summer, I read an apt quote from Joseph Brodsky, Nobel Prize winning Russian poet. He wrote: “If there is any substitute for love, it’s memory.” While reading this, the LM Dinner came immediately to my mind.

Our attendance size was 124, down from the San Francisco record-breaking attendance for both the Meeting and (at 139) for our Dinner, but it was our second largest Dinner. Another factor that influenced Dinner attendance this year was a relatively last minute shift of the Academy’s closing plenary from the traditional late Thursday afternoon to late Friday afternoon time slot. This shift led the Program Committee to also move the Owl Dinner and all other receptions from Thursday to Friday night. At least three Owls told me they had to return home on Friday and therefore had to miss our Dinner. The buzz was enhanced this year by the fact that we attracted a half-dozen under-age VIP “ringers.” These included AACAP’s Executive Director, President, President-elect, and a past President who all obviously wanted to punch the hottest ticket in town and who all paid out of their own pockets. It was actually great to have a few middies to bridge the Owl and trainee age gap. Each year I marvel at how well the Dinner’s chemistry works at making new friends and yet not diluting our main raison d’être, which is that “old friends are the best friends!”

The famous din of noise at our dinner lived up to its reputation. When I arose to make opening remarks, the microphone did not work. To my shame, diners who sat at the far end of the Hall and who could not hear my remarks clapped the loudest. Fortunately, by the time I read the names of Owls who had died since last year’s meeting, the microphone was working and the standing diners were hushed in reverent silence. The only “real” talk was by Victoria Pham, one of our psychiatry resident travel awardees from last year. I had asked Victoria to be brief. She spoke eloquently about what the Life Members mean to her, and you could hear a pin drop. She spoke for 91 seconds and it may have been the most popular Owl Dinner presentation ever!

Following dinner, while I and others were milling around from table to table, I noticed the time was 8:55. We were to be through at 8:30. About half of us were still in the room, and a cleaning crew was outside in the hall waiting for us to leave. We then changed places. The cleaning crew came in, and many Owls stayed in the hallway to continue talking. Another Owl Dinner: Another boisterous reunion!

Finally, are memories priceless? Psychologically, I believe fond memories are priceless. Unfortunately at $150 a plate, the Dinner is also pricey. The reasons are obvious. Members’ age and infirmities require a venue in the Meeting hotel or we must rent a shuttle bus. We also require handicap accessibility, available seating during pre-dinner drinks, good food, microphones, etc. Such places are never cheap. We have kept the price steady for two years, and the LM leadership is seeking ways to keep it steady longer. The Dinner is so special, and I very much want it to grow and grow.

May your 2014 be healthy and peaceful, John

John Schowalter, M.D.