Summer 2013

What Changes and What Endures

Despite economic turbulence, medical and Sackler graduates should prevail

By Bruce Morgan

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At commencement in May, medical and Sackler students celebrated the latest milestone in their educational life. “Most of all, we owe a debt of gratitude to our friends and family,” said Ameer Shah, ’13, medical school class president. Photo: Matthew MoDoono

If there were a single theme in evidence at this year’s combined commencement for Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, held in the Gantcher Center on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus on May 19, it was one of enduring values and timeless satisfactions destined to be carried forward by the graduates through changing times.

Harris Berman, medical school dean, summoned the altered world of governmental regulation that his school’s graduates would soon be entering before going on to remind them, “You chose to come into medicine to do good. Patients will confide in you and seek relief from you no matter how you are paid.”

Berman noted that the new professional landscape would require new physicians to “do more with less” and “think creatively” at every turn. He then expressed his confidence that they were poised and ready for the challenges.

Ameer T. Shah, ’13, who spoke as president of the medical school class, said that for many students in the crowd, the day represented the culmination of a lifelong dream. He compared the background team that enabled the class’s collective achievement to the many people who collaborate in a giant hospital to make it work. “Most of all, we owe a debt of gratitude to our friends and family,” he said.

Shah remembered August 18, 2009, as the day the members of his class had first gathered in a Sackler Center auditorium to hear Scott Epstein, ’84, dean for educational affairs, tell them that their learning experience would be like sticking their mouths in front of a fire hose. Seeming to confirm the analogy, Shah said the class had absorbed a total of 306 lectures in its first year.

“Still,” he told his professors, some of whom were assembled on the stage behind him, “it’s what you taught us between the lines of the textbooks that got us here today. The best way for us to repay you is to carry it forward.”

Naomi Rosenberg, dean of the Sackler School, began by citing her unalloyed pleasure at being in place to witness the annual occasion, with its music, its emotion and its rows of black-capped graduates. “For me, commencement is one of the most gratifying, thrilling days in the academic calendar,” she said. “There’s nothing I enjoy more.”

Sana Mujahid, who received her doctorate in cell, molecular and developmental biology, gave the Sackler student address. She opened by talking about an encounter she’d had with a senior scientist at a recent event. When Mujahid told the scientist that she was set to graduate in the spring, the older woman replied sagely, “It is just beginning.”

Mujahid described her own life in science as a continuum stretching back to her grade school days, observing cells through a microscope.

Earlier in the day, at the all-university commencement ceremony, the social psychologist and Stanford University dean Claude M. Steele reminded the graduates that a diploma does not come with an instruction manual, but if they keep asking questions, reaching out to others and viewing life as a learning experience, they will be on the way to creating a meaningful life’s work. He also offered graduates three lessons from his own life: seek advice, approach problems collaboratively and be open-minded.

Steele and five other distinguished individuals received honorary degrees: environmental activist Lois Gibbs; historian Philip Lampi; psychiatrist, philanthropist and entrepreneur Raymond Sackler; nutritionist and humanitarian worker Ram Shrestha, N90; and philanthropist and business leader Aso Tavitian.

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