Saturday, November 10, 2007


The Mother of all years

Dr. Kenneth Goodner, the chair of the Microbiology Department, was affectionately referred to as KG (NEVER to his face!) As freshmen all we heard from the sophomores in the fraternity house was KG did this, KG did that, KG said this: KG stories were notorious. He was totally off the wall and unpredictable, every medical students worse nightmare. So, it was with tense anticipation that we entered Dr. Goodner"s world of microbiology to learn all about the life and habits of “germs”, and how to identify them by looking and by testing.

A KG classic: We are given a slide hosting an unknown microbe. The slide is treated with a “fixative” that is dropped on the unknown (marked with a check on the end of the slide), heated briefly over a flame, and examined under a microscope. On more than one occasion the slide is marked on the wrong side, so the unsuspecting student fixes nothing and then proceeded to char the unknown specimen with the flame. The lesson? Do not take anything for granted!

The class would break down into small groups for conferences and oral testing. My first question from KG was, “who has the most influence on public opinion? This is in a microbiology class!!! I answered, “the press”, and was told no, it was Arthur Godfrey, as he made a mark in his little book. Or, he would as a true or false question, and if the first student’s answer was wrong, he would as the next student the same question.

But I must admit, KG provided some much needed levity in a demanding semester. And he did leave us with one bit of wisdom that I have never forgotten. He advised that everyone should become an authority on at least one subject, no matter how trivial, and as the years passed I came to appreciate that more and more. (To support this admonition KG invited every student to participate in the annual microbiology hobby show, where we all displayed the objects of our passionate interests, and you can be sure that we all had one.)

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