Let’s All Be Quinquagenarians!

A letter from the Medical Alumni Association Board (MAAB) president

by Edward S. Kim, ’92 BS, ’96 MD (HPME)

Headshot of man wearing a dark suit jacket and a blue necktie.

The number 50 has come to symbolize many important events. 

Birthdays are the first to come to mind. As we age, different milestones carry significance. When kids reach double digits, teenage years, and certainly 16, 18 and 21, they begin to have more freedoms. Not long afterward, real adulthood looms large. Many fear 30 and 40. I still remember as a first-year at Feinberg, our biochemistry professor said that biochemically speaking, everything is downhill after age 33, as the body goes from a healing mode to an aging mode. (That’s what I remember from biochemistry.) Ugh.

Fifty brings its own mix of feelings. I had the privilege of turning 50 during the pandemic. This milestone made me reflect on many things, including that I’m more than halfway through life. On the more positive sides, it made me excited to look down the road, to assess my family, their future, and the cherished memories we will create. My wife Florence celebrated her 50th birthday recently, and I had the privilege of spending it with her. The positive outlook of 50 is so symbolic and important.

In case you are wondering, we’re called quinquagenarians. 

If mathematics is more your thing, then 50 is the smallest number that is the sum of two non-zero square numbers in two distinct ways: 50 = 12 + 72 = 52 + 52. (I had to look at this a couple times to understand it.)

In religion, we have several meanings for 50.

  • In Kabbalah, there are 50 Gates of Wisdom (or Understanding) and 50 Gates of Impurity.
  • The Christian Feast of Pentecost takes place on the 50th day of the Easter Season.
  • The Jewish Pentecost takes place 50 days after the Passover feast (the holiday of Shavuoth).
Above: Edward S. Kim, ’92 BS, ’96 MD (HPME) and his wife Florence celebrating her 50th birthday.

According to Biblical Numerology, the number 50 is a symbol of freedom, release, and new cycle. Every 50 years in the day of Atonement people needed to honor the Jubilee, a day when all the loans and debts were forgotten and forgiven to the one who took a debt, and all the slaves were released, and all the things taken were turned back to people they belonged to. It was a day when harmony was established.

Since we are all in science, we should also include the fact that 50 is the atomic number of tin, the fifth magic number in nuclear physics, and the percent of genetic overlap of a parent and offspring.

If we want to explore what the characteristics or horoscope for 50 is, there are some fun facts according to Affinity Numerology. The numerology number 50 expresses its sense of personal freedom — the pursuit of whatever may be of interest without resistance from its inner self or from others. The number 50 likes to talk and play and imagine and have fun, especially when it involves experiencing something it hasn’t experienced before. The number 50 is witty. People generally smile a lot when they’re around 50. The essence of the number 50 almost always focuses on the positive side of things rather than the negative. I believe it is these characteristics of 50 that we should embrace and move forward with.

This coming spring, during Alumni Weekend (April 29-30), we have three classes celebrating their 50th reunions: 1970, 1971, and 1972. Two were postponed, but milestones are important to celebrate — even belatedly! At Feinberg, we also have the Half Century Club, which celebrates alumni who graduated 50+ years ago. Personally, I will be celebrating my belated 25th reunion this year (halfway to 50).

As we transition into another fall and winter season and celebrate various milestones, let’s all be 50 — whatever your age, it’s a good state of mind.