Surgeon Goes Where She’s Most Needed

By Kristin Davis As a senior trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, Susan Miller Briggs ’65 had rehearsed a day like April 15, 2013, many times. It would begin with an alert from Boston emergency dispatchers: Prepare for a mass casualty incident. Then hundreds of medical professionals would mobilize. Briggs had responded to enough manmade and natural disasters to know that a city the size of Boston would someday face its own major crisis – some kind of terrible accident, she thought. But she was horrified when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds. “I never thought it would be a bombing by people who are our own citizens,” Briggs said. “That’s the hardest part to take.” Briggs grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just a short train ride from Mary Washington. She always wanted to be a doctor, an interest most likely sparked by her physician grandfather. “I knew I would never have a … [Read more...]

Ambassador’s Eventful Career Started at Mary Washington

By Laura Moyer Rose McCartney Likins ’81 had been ambassador to El Salvador for just five months when a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit in January 2001. Highways crumbled, homes shook apart, and the Central American country needed help urgently. But with a new presidential administration just arriving in Washington, Likins would have to fight to keep the country’s plight in the forefront. She flew to Washington and walked the halls of the State Department, knocking on doors and talking to anyone who would listen. And she arranged for George W. Bush, just weeks into his presidency, to meet with the Salvadoran president at the White House. With the resulting United States financial support and help from nongovernmental organizations, communities in El Salvador rebuilt infrastructure and rehoused 100,000 people. The efforts stemmed a potential mass migration and strengthened U.S.-Salvadoran ties. The earthquake was just one crisis Likins handled in an eventful diplomatic career … [Read more...]

Family Channels Sorrow Into Kindness

By Erica Jackson Curran ’07 Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht, known to his family as Rees, was supposed to start swimming lessons in the winter of 2012. Growing up on Long Island with a pond in the backyard, it was natural that the toddler should learn to swim. But in October 2012, the unthinkable happened. Rees, just 22 months old, wandered away from the house and drowned in the backyard pond. In the days after the tragedy, Rees’ father, Richard Specht ’97, clung to the counsel of a relative who’d lost two children of her own. Today, he gives the same advice to parents who have suffered a loss. “There are two outcomes possible for a parent who loses a child,” Specht tells them. “They can either find themselves swallowed up by the never-ending sorrow, or they can transcend it. Those who transcend it have to find a way to channel the love they have for that child into something positive.” For Specht and his wife, Samantha, that meant creating the ReesSpecht Life foundation in honor of … [Read more...]

Alumna Finds Her Voice – and a Seat at a White House Dinner

By Edie Gross Riham Osman ’13 was one of nine young Muslims at the dinner table with President Barack Obama. But he turned to her first, and she wasn’t about to waste the opportunity. How will the administration engage the Muslim community on issues that matter to all Americans? asked Osman, suggesting Obama appoint a Muslim to a Cabinet-level position. And how will the White House work with Muslims to counter violent extremism, rather than singling them out as perpetrators? Inviting Muslims to the table, she told Obama, would make those discussions more productive and reduce media bias. Obama listened politely and joked about his own rocky relationship with the media. Then he turned to another invited guest at the White House iftar dinner during Ramadan in June 2015. But Osman, the communications coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), wasn’t done. As the dinner wound down, Osman asked the president to acknowledge that violent extremism was not restricted … [Read more...]