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Spring 2014
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Honor Thy Teacher
Karlsons lead effort to pay tribute to Professor George E. Erikson.
Anatomic dissection is still the preferred method of teaching anatomy in medical schools. The course is often called “transformative,” in that it is the first of many experiences that change a lay person into a physician. As such, the professor who leads the student through this transformation is often mythologized, revered, and certainly, never forgotten.

Such is true of Professor Emeritus of Medical Science George (Erik) Erikson. Erikson served as co-chair of the section of population biology, morphology and genetics, and taught anatomy at Brown from 1965 to 1990. He taught in the traditional manner, relying heavily on prosection and demonstrations he performed in front of the class. Students in the master of medical science and early Program in Medicine watched from spring-loaded stools in the Biomedical Center’s basement anatomy lab.

“As we started our journey in medical school, it was Professor Erikson who first educated us about the  sanctity of life—and respect for the human body—by teaching us about death and anatomy,” says Karl Karlson ’74 MMS’77 MD’77, P’06. “He conveyed to his students that it is truly an honor and a privilege to  dissect the human body—that in medicine, we must be reverent.”

From 1990 to 1999 Erikson was a visiting lecturer on surgery at Harvard and a senior anatomist at  Massachusetts General Hospital. He died in 2009. The Karlson family, including Brown Medical School  graduates Karl and James ’84 MMS’88 MD’88, are leading an effort to honor Erikson’s legacy with a gift to the new Medical School building that would name one of the anatomy labs for him. The Karlsons, whose father
was a cardiothoracic surgeon and founding faculty member of the School, have made a $500,000 gift toward the effort and are challenging the Brown community to raise the remaining $500,000. A gift committee has been established to garner support among alumni.

“It is gratifying for our family to see the effort that our father began 40 years ago come to fruition in such a world-class building. When we toured the building our thoughts returned to our first-year experiences which were dominated by Gross Anatomy and defined by Dr. Erikson. Of course the new anatomy lab should be named after Dr. Erikson. Hopefully others with similar experiences will help make this dream come true,” says James.

For more information about the Karlson Challenge or to participate on the committee, please contact Erin Shreve, major gifts officer, Biomedical Advancement, at 401 863-3679 or

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