Graham Jeffries, M.D., to Receive Penn State Honorary Alumni Award
A man who has impacted the lives of many Penn State College of Medicine alumni through the years will be recognized with the Penn State Honorary Alumni Award on June 1 and 2 during Traditional Alumni Weekend at University Park.
His father wanted him to be a farmer, but even as a child growing up in New Zealand, Graham H. Jeffries had a different idea. He wanted to be a doctor. Little did he know the seeds he would plant. After completing his medical education at Otago Medical School, University of New Zealand in 1952, he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and met Elizabeth Jones, an American from New York, also studying in England. The couple married in 1955 and, in 1958, Jeffries accepted a gastroenterology fellowship at New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical College. A few years later, he became chief of the department.
In 1969, George T. Harrell, M.D., founding dean of Penn State College of Medicine, contacted Jeffries and asked him to consider coming to Hershey as professor and first chair of medicine. Not yet forty years-old, Jeffries consulted with a colleague at Cornell who advised him, "If you see this as a challenge for the rest of your life, then you have to take it." Although he had only completed two years as a department chief, Jeffries moved to Hershey, excited by the opportunity and challenge to establish a new medical college. When Harrell asked him what his goals were for the department, Jeffries responded "to establish a department that provides excellent patient care, teaching, and research." These are goals that now encompass the mission of Penn State College of Medicine.
By 1983, the Department of Medicine numbered fourteen divisions and forty-seven faculty. Jeffries chaired the department from 1968-1988 and was also instrumental in the development of the residency program. In the mid-1980s, Jeffries traveled to India on a Fulbright scholarship as visiting lecturer at Christian Medical College in Ludhiana, and later served as visiting professor at the University of Zimbabwe School of Medicine in Harare, Zimbabwe. These experiences led him to develop a critical component of education for his students at Penn State Hershey. During the 1990s, students from Penn State Hershey joined Jeffries in Kenya and Swaziland, where he conducted daily teaching rounds and together, they provided patient care in rural hospitals. In recognition of the impact of these formative study-abroad experiences, alumni from the College of Medicine joined Jeffries to establish the Graham and Elizabeth Jeffries International Health Fund, which now supports participation by full-time medical students in an elective medical experience in a developing country.
Now retired, Jeffries still sees patients at Penn State Hershey twice a week. When he isn't working, he can be found cultivating his garden. It gives Jeffries great joy to see the incredible growth of the seeds he has sown-in Hershey, Africa, India, and around the world. His father would be proud.