Fall 2012

Passion for the Days to Come

Graduates urged to be ‘agents of change’ in a challenging time

By Jacqueline Mitchell

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Meredith Thomas beams in anticipation of getting her M.D. degree. Photo: Alonso Nichols

The study of medicine always moves in two directions—backward, into the rich history of the discipline, and forward, to anticipate and resolve likely future challenges for the field. This past May, at the joint commencement ceremony for the School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, held in the Gantcher Center on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus, the focus was on the future of health care and scientific research and the psychological cast of mind needed for graduates to make the most of their professional lives.

Dean Harris Berman noted the tremendous changes rippling through the American health-care system. “What an opportunity to be agents of change,” he said. Noting that these graduates will face more fiscal constraints than previous generations, he urged them to use the tools they were given at Tufts to think critically, to be caring and to be socially responsible. “Never forget that you entered the health profession to make the world a better place. You are poised to have wonderful careers doing good. Go do it.”

In the medical class president’s address, Neel Shah, A06, M12, recalled the advice former Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow gave the Class of 2012 at their first-year orientation. “Don’t become a medical nerd,” Shah said, paraphrasing Bacow’s admonition to students that they remain the interesting, well-rounded and engaged citizens the admissions committee admitted.

Shah noted that one member of the Class of 2012 was not present because she was taking part in the U.S. Olympic Rowing trials in Lucerne, Switzerland, while 12 more ran the Boston Marathon in April. Several graduates have published research; many have been advocates for underserved communities; at least one is a classically trained jazz musician, and another has published books. “If it sounds like I’m bragging about our class, I am,” Shah said.

“You are all here because you’ve done something amazing,” said Naomi Rosenberg, dean of the Sackler School, in her address to the graduates. “You have all discovered new knowledge, and, more important, you have contributed that knowledge to the world so that everyone can benefit.”

Like Berman, Rosenberg noted that “we are entering a time of both changing science and constrained resources for science.” Sackler students’ training, she reminded them, can be applied not just to academia, but also to industry and many other careers.

The Sackler student address was delivered by triple-Jumbo Robert Howard Goldstein, A05, a graduate of the M.D./Ph.D. program. “You could never design a school like Tufts,” Goldstein said. “The Sackler School is what it is because of the people here today,” he added, noting not only the close relationships students develop with their professors and mentors, but also “the pivotal role each of us played in each other’s education. I am proud to call everyone not only a colleague, but a friend.”

Earlier in the day, at Tufts’ all-university commencement ceremony, Eric Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL who has been involved in humanitarian efforts around the world, urged graduates to match their passions to the world’s needs and find a way to be of service. “If you do that, life will not be easy, but you will have chosen for yourself a very meaningful adventure,” said Greitens, who was awarded an honorary degree.

Other honorary degree recipients were Tufts President Emeritus Bacow; Bonnie Bassler, the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Princeton University; Cecilia Ibeabuchi, manager of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless clinic at St. Francis House; and Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors and director and former chair of Refugees International.

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