Surgeon Gregory Jarrin ’85 Had a “Hypnotic” Orientation!

Dr. Greg Jarrin
Dr. Gregory Jarrin ’85 is the chief of surgery at Whiteriver Indian Hospital in Arizona, serving the White Mountain Apache Nation. He has been practicing medicine in Arizona since 2007; after graduating from New York Medical College in 1989, he was a general surgeon at hospitals in Upstate New York as well as a volunteer surgeon at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. Jarrin is also an associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona. He and his wife, Vanessa, have four children.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I graduated from Stuyvesant, a very competitive high school in NYC. Hundreds of my friends were going to the other Ivy League schools; however, I did not have any close friends attending the College with me. I was open to new experiences. I remember being hypnotized at an event during Orientation and being told I was “Tarzan.” I was on stage in front of a couple hundred other first-years. The hypnotist told me to go find “Jane.” He told me to be careful and to not jump off the stage. I promptly saw my Jane, leapt into the audience and brought her onto the stage. Throughout my four years at Columbia, people would come up to me and ask if I was Tarzan.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

My first year was spent in John Jay on the 14th floor. Those rooms had a desk, a closet, a bed and a sink. But my room made a great place to focus on chemistry, physics and Contemporary Civilization, as I could close my door and study in peace. I worked at the cafeteria in John Jay for work-study. I loved being in the Columbia University Marching Band, traveling the East Coast by bus with 50 of my closest friends on weekends for football games. After a long weekend away, my room served as a refuge to get back to work. Our resident assistant was a graduate student getting her M.B.A.; she was our R.A., and also our therapist and our friend. Her door was always open.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

Freshman English [now called University Writing] was where I learned how to write. We wrote every day. In 1981, the College was still all-male — we were once given an assignment to describe the “perfect woman.” Of course today, that would be considered sexist and narrow-minded. I had a long-term relationship from high school so I thought this assignment would be a snap. I wrote about her physical characteristics and her goals in life. I had always had a preference for brunettes. The first sentence in my paper — “I hate blondes” — would also be considered politically incorrect in 2021 but it did catch my professor’s attention; he asked me to read it aloud in class. I remember getting an A.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I loved the Low Steps. They were majestic. They had a great view of the campus. I would go there to read on occasion. One night, I kept falling asleep reading Descartes, so at 11 p.m. on a chilly February night, I sat on the Steps and tried to get through 10 pages of the most verbose and obtuse literature ever produced. After about 30 minutes I had frozen fingertips and had only read five pages, but I was determined to finish. I looked up to see a gentleman bundled in jackets walk by me to a nearby garbage can. He unabashedly unzipped his pants and urinated. I thought it was divine intervention. I retreated to my dorm room having accepted defeat.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Columbia. I stayed on campus at my fraternity, Tau Epsilon Phi, on West 110th street for the summer after graduation. I was a TA for general chemistry and tutored high school students for the math portion of the SAT. It was a great transition to medical school. I really appreciated the warm summer nights with friends, lying on a blanket in the grass watching movies projected onto a big screen. My fraternity brothers and I would go down to the Village on the 1 train for food and to dance. I would love to relive that summer of fun and carelessness on campus.