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Celebrating pathological longevity

Photo by Flying Squirrel Graphics

When Kitty Coutermarsh Vezina applied to work at Dartmouth Medical School in April of 1969, the going rate of pay for a laboratory technician was $1.65 an hour. She was hired to work in the Department of Pathology, where she's been ever since—for almost 32 years.

Such longevity does not go unnoticed at DMS. Indeed, Vezina recently received a cane commemorating her length of service. It's a simple wooden staff, painted green, with small brass plaques naming all those who have received it.

The tradition of the cane began in 1976, according to Connie Carr, who is now retired and was the cane's previous holder. She gave Vezina the cane, which had been presented to her in 1991, at a brief ceremony on November 17. (Carr is on the left in the photo above, and Vezina on the right.)

According to Carr, Leo Melancon, who started working in the hospital morgue in 1936, was given the cane in 1976 by fellow employee John Rogenski to mark the length of his tenure. Rogenski himself was the next recipient, and after him Leo Dauphinais received the cane. It was always, Carr stresses, an informal award, given by employees to other employees to honor the one among them who had served longest.

Vezina, it was noted by several of her bosses past and present, is the kind of employee everyone would like to have on their team. "She can get better precision on RIAs [radioimmunoassays —a method for determining levels of hormones in the blood] than the automated machines," noted pathologist K.T. "Jerry" Yeo, Ph.D., at the November 17 presentation. "Kitty has been very flexible about a changing environment."

"We had many good times together for more than 20 years," remembered Truls Brinck-Johnsen, Ph.D., now a professor of pathology emeritus. "Kitty was very bright, very hard-working, and very interested. We got her into important work; she learned to do very sophisticated analysis. . . . You did good work," he concluded. And she's still at it. —M.M.C.

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