In the 17 years that psychiatrist Thomas W. Koenig ’89 has served as associate dean for medical student affairs at Johns Hopkins, he’s mentored and advised nearly 2,000 medical students, making an indelible impact.
When the 58-year-old Koenig announced in February that he would retire in May, the Office of Alumni Affairs said: “Tom’s impact as an adviser and passionate advocate for medical students will be impossible to replace. Perhaps even more, his humanity and friendship will be missed by faculty, students and staff in the school of medicine.”
During his long tenure in student affairs, Koenig wrote residency application recommendation letters for up to 85 students annually, in addition to recommendation letters for research fellowships, international scholarships or other programs. Between 96 and 99 percent of Hopkins medical school graduates are successful in obtaining matches — compared with a national average of 94 percent, he says.
“I’m grateful to have been able to be in this position for as long as I have,” Koenig says. “I’ve long maintained I’ve had the best job in the house.”
Koenig arrived at Johns Hopkins intending to become an infectious disease specialist. When he first studied psychiatry, however, he “just got bowled over,” he recalls.
Although he says he did not put on his clinical hat when advising medical students, being a psychiatrist helped him “immeasurably” as he assisted them in navigating the pressures of medical school, discussing potential career choices, and collaborating with the registrar’s office to adjust the students’ curricula when “life and med school butt heads.”
“I really encourage students to realize that their happiness and wellness depends as much on their personal lives — and I would contend much more — than their professional role as a physician. When you’re in that role, you should be 100 percent there — but you can’t be in that role all of the time. My retiring at this age, I hope, sends some kind of message to students.”
Koenig and his husband, Ciro Martins (faculty, dermatology, 1997–2007), who have been together for nearly 33 years, own a home about 40 minutes south of Lisbon in Portugal and will move there permanently.“The words in Portugal for ‘to retire’ are ‘se reformar’ — which also means ‘to reform,’” Koenig says. “Those are the kind of lenses through which we’re looking at this next step in our lives.”