A group of distinguished educators and physicians — whom lovingly call themselves the GRUMPPs — keep their finger on the pulse of UNC Children’s. Can you guess what the acronym stands for?
Around 20 years ago the GRUMPPs began to meet for breakfast. “Or maybe it was 15 years ago,” says Ernest Kraybill, MD, a pediatric neonatologist retired from UNC more than 13 years, with a laugh. “We have no officers, no agenda, no dues, no minutes, no history. We just like to get together.”
Who are the GRUMPPs?
“That’s an acronym, as you might expect,” explains Dr. Kraybill. “It stands for Group of Retired Unemployed, or Underemployed, Multi-talented Pediatrics Professors.”
The group—around 20 members at present—meets monthly at a local diner.
“We have between six to 12 members any given month,” adds Kraybill. “Last meeting we had eight. It’s a genial group, and we talk.”
“We talk about what we are doing, where we have traveled, grandchildren, whatever comes up,” continues Dr. Kraybill. “We hardly ever talk about the Department [of Pediatrics] or the University.”
The modesty in Kraybill’s explanation downplays the GRUMPPs continued service to the UNC Children’s, where their wisdom and expertise is sought by current faculty members and students alike.
“Many of them were giants in their areas,” says Harvey Hamrick, MD, associate program director of the pediatrics residency training program and professor in the Department of Pediatrics. “They are an invaluable sounding board for young physicians. They don’t discuss individual cases, of course, but they do a lot to hold things together.”
Michael Steiner, MD, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, for example, recently met with Frank Loda, MD, who held that same position from 1971 to 1990, when the division was less than half its current size.
“We spoke for two hours,” reflects Steiner. “We discussed the formation of the division and early experiences in the department. It’s important to maintain this information as faculty retire or move away.”
The GRUMPPS were started by the late Herbert Harned, MD, who was chief of pediatric cardiology when he retired.
“Dr. Harned wanted to keep in touch, so he started inviting folks to join the group as they retired,” says Dr. Kraybill said. “The original group included Dr. Floyd Denny [chair of the Department of Pediatrics from 1960 to 1981] and other members of the early pediatrics staff.”
Dr. Kraybill came to UNC in 1972 as a neonatologist brought in to help develop the division. He led the division for 15 years and also chaired the UNC School of Medicine’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), a committee that approves, monitors, and reviews biomedical and behavioral research involving humans.
“I’ve retired a couple of times but finally in 2001, I ‘really’ retired,” he laughs. “But other GRUMPPS continue to do useful things; some even do clinical work.”
And despite claiming to be “really” retired, Dr. Kraybill continues to serve on the IRB, contributing his expertise on these difficult decisions. The GRUMPPs’ continued service to UNC Children’s is recognized by visits and invitations.
“Recently we invited Dr. Burks [current chair of the UNC Department of Pediatrics and chief physician of N.C. Children’s Hospital] to our gathering,” says Dr. Kraybill, “He filled us in on what’s going on within the department. At our next meeting we will meet in the hospital to meet the residents and faculty. I’m looking forward to that.”
It will be an experience for the residents, as Kraybill’s book, “The Barefood Prophet,” about his experiences in pediatrics, is recommended reading for the residents.
Other GRUMPPs take their talents on the road in their retirement years. Among them is Jack Benjamin, MD, a general pediatrician who retired as Pediatrician in Chief of the N.C. Children’s Hospital, who joined the Medical Benevolence Foundation (MBF), a faith-based organization with the mission of serving people in Haiti, Malawi, Congo, the Sudan, and India. Dr. Benjamin and his wife, Nancy, first went to Haiti, where he taught pediatrics to nursing students while his wife translated his classes into French.
While teaching he also sharpened his skills at photography, so much so that on subsequent trips to Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, he was asked to not only share his medical expertise but his photography for use on the foundation’s publications and website while working in the hospitals of both countries. For his devotion he was asked to serve on the executive committee of the MBF.
Meanwhile, time and changes come to all things, including the GRUMPPs.
“About five years ago, the spouses decided to join our activities,” says Dr. Kraybill. “But they sit at a different table, because they find out conversation boring.”