Originally created 05/04/02

MCG grads bring families' inspiration to fruition



Kari Noel Jahnke would be proud.

Her death in 1993 deepened a desire in her younger sister, Kelly Elizabeth Knowles, to become a doctor. Dr. Knowles was one of 640 students who graduated Friday from the Medical College of Georgia.

She was also the winner of the $25,000 John F. Beard Award, given annually to a student at MCG who exemplifies compassionate care. For that, Dr. Knowles has only to reach back to her sister's ordeal with breast cancer. Mrs. Jahnke was diagnosed when she was only 31 and had been married just five months, Dr. Knowles said. She died at age 33. It still brings tears to Dr. Knowles' eyes and leaves her with a profound respect for her patients and for life.

"We don't know when our next breath is going to be taken away," she said. "That definitely spurred me on. Her death has allowed me to connect with people in a way I couldn't before."

Mrs. Jahnke could be doubly proud today - Dr. Knowles is marrying her fiance, Steve Schaeffer.

Krishna Patel sat with her classmates wearing two tassels on her mortarboard, one from the School of Medicine and one signifying her doctorate from the School of Graduate Studies.

She is one of a few students at MCG to graduate M.D./Ph.D., and she can also thank her family for inspiration: Both of her parents are Ph.D.s.

"We were going to make sure she got out," joked her father, Gordhan Patel.

"It's unavoidable in our family," Dr. Krishna Patel joked as her mother, Dr. Virginia Patel, looked on. The daughter will now go on to a five-year residency in ear, nose and throat surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she may also continue her research into myosin motor proteins, which are critical in the early stages of development.

"There are myosin people at UNC," she said.

Next week, her father will be conferring his own Ph.D.s as vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Georgia in Athens. MCG's graduation was a new experience for him.

"This is the first time in 13 years I've sat in the audience," he said. "My knees are killing me. I'm going to have more sympathy for the audience next week."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.