Fall 2015

Poised and Ready

In a time of rapid change, graduates are told they will succeed by tapping into what they know

By Gail Bambrick

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Lauren Rissman gives a hug to Karen Axten, ’15. Photo: Tom Hedges

The day held promise, as always. “You can shape the health-care models of the future,” Harris Berman, medical school dean, told the 206 graduates at the 123rd commencement ceremonies for the School of Medicine and the 35th for the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

The country is still adjusting to the new world created by national health reform and by constrained resources resulting from the recent recession and changing priorities in Washington, Berman observed at the ceremony on May 17.

“Your compassion and caring will indeed make a difference. That is the ultimate reward.” –Harris Berman

“Those of you graduates who will practice medicine are likely to practice under new organizational models,” he pointed out. “You will have the opportunity to help figure out how to do more with less and more importantly how to make the world’s costliest health-care system more efficient while preserving quality care for patients.”

He reminded the graduates that no matter how the health-care system evolves, they chose a career in medicine “to do good, to help people and to share their compassion. Patients will trust you, will confide in you, seek caring and solace and advice from you. Your compassion and caring will indeed make a difference. That is the ultimate reward.”

Sackler graduates face equal challenges in pursuing new treatments and cures at a time when there is less federal funding for research, said Sackler School Dean Naomi Rosenberg. She assured the graduates they will succeed if they channel their “fire of curiosity and their need to know and understand.”

Funding is tight, but opportunities are vast in a time of unprecedented research breakthroughs, Rosenberg said. And Sackler School graduates are poised to continue this momentum.

“You each have found at least one, and generally more than one thing that no one else in the world knew before you actually figured it out here,” she said. “That’s not an easy thing to do, but you’ve all done it.”

Staying optimistic in the face of an uncertain future was also the advice of medical class president Courtney Harris, who reminded the future doctors they had been taught to keep attention, curiosity and compassion in the pockets of their white coats so they would always be ready to care for the patient and not just the disease. “Don’t become jaded… believe in the power of change,” she told her classmates.

Addressing her fellow Sackler students, Stephanie Gilley noted that the many opportunities before them also come with great responsibility. “We have trained to become experts in our field, and now we must be those experts,” Gilley said.

The first degree awarded at the ceremony was a posthumous one, to Mohamed (“Moe”) Zeidan, a fourth-year medical student who was killed in a bicycle accident in Medford, Massachusetts, on Sept. 5, 2014. He was 29 and greatly admired by faculty and students, Berman said. The audience gave a standing ovation.

“You all are poised to have wonderful careers doing good,” Berman said to the graduates. “Go do it.”

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