Bringing global experiences to Hershey
Graham H. Jeffries, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine, could be devoting his retirement to two of his passions—gardening and antique clocks—but it’s tough to make time considering that he still teaches at the College of Medicine, sees patients in a weekly clinic, and supervises six fellows.
Jeffries, who grew up on a farm in New Zealand, arrived in Hershey shortly after the College of Medicine was established. After completing medical school at the University of New Zealand, Jeffries became a Rhodes Scholar before accepting a gastroenterology fellowship at New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical College. Shortly after being named chief of the department, Jeffries was contacted by George T. Harrell, M.D., founding dean of the College of Medicine, who invited him to join the new medical school as professor and chair of medicine. More than forty years later, Jeffries’ career and achievements are were recognized by Penn State with an honorary alumni award this June. The award is given to honor exceptional people who have made contributions toward Penn State’s welfare, reputation, or prestige.
“After being at the Medical Center for almost forty-three years, I already feel like I am an alum,” Jeffries says. “As a physician, one continues to learn throughout their career, and most of my education has been at Penn State.”
Much of Jeffries’ education came in somewhat of a global classroom, an experience he ingrained in his students. Along with some of the early faculty members in the College, Jeffries created an elective for students to train overseas in a developing country. These trips usually involved work in rural mission hospitals in Kenya, India, and Zimbabwe. In all, Jeffries made eleven trips to Africa while supervising students and was often one of only two physicians in the hospitals. Since there were no residents at these locations, Jeffries says that the medical students became sub-interns and gained invaluable experience that could not be achieved in the classroom.
These trips provided the genesis for the current Global Health Center at Penn State Hershey, which gives medical students the opportunity to do public health work in countries around the world. “It’s important to see how most of the world lives and to see how people who have nothing can still be joyous in their relationships,” Jeffries says.
Despite serving as chief of the division of gastroenterology for fourteen years, receiving a Fulbright Visiting Lectureship, and establishing the Graham and Elizabeth Jeffries International Health Fund, Jeffries believes his greatest accomplishment is simply having the opportunity to touch a lot of lives. “I think there is a tendency for too many folks to view their accomplishments as what their income is or what position they hold,” Jeffries says. “But the most important thing is the people I’ve worked with. That’s what I appreciate most about the College of Medicine.”
– By Holly Swanson