Wake Forest Magazine recently received a letter and family photos from John Randolph “Randy” Cresenzo (JD ’76) who wrote that his father, Dr. Victor Michael Cresenzo Sr. (BS ’40, MD ’43), is among the last living members of the first graduating class of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1943. According to his father, Dr. Cresenzo, Dr. John Reinhart of Hendersonville and Dr. David Smith of Lexington are the three surviving members of the original class.
“Dr. Cresenzo, now 92 and living in Reidsville with his wife, Frances, was admitted into the first class of the school of medicine after his junior year at Wake Forest College. He remembers that he went to the new school located on the old Wake Forest campus, armed with a transcript of his grades, to inquire about the application process and was sent on a “circular” route from one dean to another to answer questions,” the letter reads.
“After being directed back to the first dean he learned to his amazement that he had been admitted. Coming from an Italian family of immigrant roots who lived in New York, he was astounded that his lifelong goal had been met and became the pride of his extended clan. Dr. Cresenzo went on to become a member of the Fellow of American College of Physicians and a Fellow of American Cardiologists and practiced rural medicine in Reidsville until his health declined.”
Cresenzo wrote that his father believed that God owned his hands and that he was using them simply to do His work. “He has never been able to abide the suffering of others and treated each patient as a family member, even if it meant being stern with them. His one rule with his patients was that if they didn’t have money to pay for services they would still come to him when they needed help.” Matters of money took care of themselves. “Things were different — better — then. Before health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, patients would show up at our house to offer country hams, coconut cakes, tires for his Willys Jeep, corn, and anything working hands, a farm or a kitchen could produce. Everyone appreciated each other.”
One of Dr. Cresenzo’s sons, Mark (MD ’81), attended Bowman Gray and follows in his father’s footsteps practicing internal medicine in Reidsville. Two other Cresenzo sons, Vic, Jr. (BS ’67), a now retired dentist, and Bill (BS ’67), a CPA in Walnut Cove, also graduated from Wake Forest.
“Dad and I went to Old Wake Forest a few years ago and he showed me where he sat in a particular classroom on his first day of medical school and where his first cadaver — a prisoner from Central prison — lay as he learned anatomy,” he wrote. “His memory remains excellent, however, and he recently told me that he expects to embrace some of his Medical School Mentors at the gates of heaven. They were kind to him and took him under their wings, and he has never forgotten that fact.”