Commencement 2012 at GUMC

Posted in GUMC Stories

Commencement week at GUMC is characterized by a succession of events and celebration recognizing achievement and culminating in the formal commencement ceremonies for students of the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing & Health Studies, and Biomedical Graduate Education.

School of Medicine

The Georgetown University School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony was held on Sunday, May 20 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., graduating 193 members of the Class of 2012.

Two honorary degrees were conferred. Dr. Ross Fletcher, M.D., who created the first successful system-wide electronic medical record that has been transformed into an enterprise solution for our American service members received this honor. Dr. Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean of the School of Medicine, humorously introduced Dr. Fletcher with a quote from Dr. Seuss ‘s You’re Only Old Once! : A Book for Obsolete Children (1986):

When at last we are sure
You’ve been properly pilled,
Then a few paper forms
Must be properly filled
So that you and your heirs
May be properly billed.

The second honorary degree recipient, Dr. Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D., delivered the commencement address.

In a daunting list of the students’ four years of medical learning, Zasloff summarized it so “You have had to master not just a vast body of science, not just the impossible complexities of molecular genetics and intermediary metabolism, the beautiful but confounding intricacies of physiological homeostasis, the impossible details of anatomy with its endless and meaningless Latin names, those drugs with strange names and doses, the hundreds if not thousands of diseases that man can suffer, their diagnoses, their treatment, and sometimes their prevention; human health and how to preserve it, and then how to communicate your learning so that it helps other human beings…”

Citing his own early experiences as a new physician, Zasloff challenged the graduates to always question what they have been taught and to pursue unsolved mysteries that will inevitably arise from their direct experience with patients. “You might have a medical insight that is revolutionary, that excites your imagination—please dear graduates, find a way to pursue it.” He offered up a list of random observations that continue to intrigue him throughout his career.

• How is it that you can bite your tongue and it heals without infection?
• Why does the rheumatoid arthritis patient present with symmetrical joint involvement—what guides the symmetry?
• Why does a seemingly normal child suddenly develop schizophrenia as a young adult?
• Why does cancer almost never develop on the upper surface of the back of the tongue?
• Why is cancer of the small intestine so rare?

“Go forth and stay curious, stay self doubting. Realize that you have the opportunity to deepen our knowledge and revolutionize medicine. Not only will civilization thank you, but also you will certainly make Georgetown proud.”

Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell, M.D., Dean for Medical Education, said “I’m proud, on behalf of our faculty and staff, to present an exceptional class, the 160th to continuously graduate from our school of medicine. This class helped us create a transformational new curriculum—the first truly transformational curriculum since Patrick Healy was president of Georgetown University.

“This class provides us a good cross-section of the nation: there are 101 men and 92 women; the youngest is 25, the oldest is 34; 34 states are represented, led by California, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia; 38 members of the graduating class also have a graduate degree.”

Shoshana Aleinikoff, a graduate who will pursue a career in family medicine, said that it was the mission of cura personalis that attracted her to Georgtown. “A lot of my Georgetown memories are related to that,” she said, “from dressing up in our white coats on the second day of our first year and going over to the hospital and spending 40 minutes trying to talk to a patient for the first time. Along the way, that caring interaction was a common thread that made my medical school experience at Georgetown unique.”

School of Nursing & Health Studies

At the 2012 Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 19, graduates of the School of Nursing & Health Studies were encouraged to put their education to use to improve the world.

“In so much of the world, they’re desperate for even a pale imitation of the opportunities that we here take for granted and, in many cases, throw away,” said commencement speaker Mark Green, senior director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “… You have been given that which millions can only dream of.”

Green shared stories from his work as a volunteer teacher in Kenya and as the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania. He is also a former member of U.S. Congress representing Wisconsin.

“You must be engaged in this country, in leading us through these challenging times,” said Green, who was awarded an honorary degree. “You have been blessed with an amazing education. You have acquired skills and knowledge that can change the world on the grand stage or one family at a time. Please put those blessings to work.”

This year, 206 NHS undergraduates received bachelor of science degrees in health care management and policy, human science, international health and nursing.

Alison Lauter (NHS’12), a human science major, graduated with the highest cumulative grade point average. Lauter, who carried the school’s banner and led the student procession, will attend Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in the fall.

Dr. Martin Y. Iguchi, Ph.D., the school’s dean, encouraged the graduates to hold onto Georgetown’s values during their lives.

“We hope that each of you will move forward in your lives and careers according to the principles of Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition,” Iguchi said. “Whether you are making scientific discoveries, providing clinical care, analyzing health policy or engaging in public health activities on a global scale, we know you will conduct yourselves with an orientation toward the common good of society.”

Iguchi, who presided over his first commencement since assuming deanship of the school, reflected on the strong framework of values of academic excellence and social justice Georgetown University provides for its graduates. “The students we send out into the world are attracted by Georgetown’s values and leave with an understanding that valuing social justice requires a commitment to social action,” he said. “They apply their Georgetown education to promote human health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally. Their commitment to social action calls upon them to use their talents in service to others, especially for individuals and groups who have been traditionally under-served by science and health care.”

Biomedical Graduate Education

Graduating students in the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO) attended the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony on the Healy Lawn on Friday, May 18. The commencement speaker was Helen Neville, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Oregon, whose contributions to neuroscience have made her a leading figure in understanding the brain.

After the main event, which included all graduate students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences across the university, the BGRO students headed to Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall to receive their diplomas.

Dr. Robert Clarke, Ph.D., D.Sc., dean for research, along with Dr. Barbara Bayer, Ph.D., professor and senior associate dean for Biomedical Graduate Education, and Dr. Martin Y. Iguchi, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies, each spoke briefly, offering congratulations and encouragement for further achievements in science. David Weisz, who received his Masters in Health Physics, gave the BGRO student address.

Weisz chose the metaphor of rock climbing to his career:

“In order to be an effective climber, one must have a specific mix of characteristics: determination, discipline, creativity, and of course, a bit of grace,” he said. “These are the same characteristics that, in my opinion, have made us effective students and will subsequently make us effective professionals.”

For the first time, a pre-commencement ceremony was held the night before for the 169 students in the Special Master’s Program in Physiology who are expected to graduate in July.

Dr. Susan Mulroney, Ph.D., who heads up the Special Master’s Program, was especially proud of the academic performances from all of the Medical Center graduate programs. She said, “In the Special Master’s Program, the ‘physios’ exceeded our already high expectations, and this has been one of the strongest classes ever.

“It’s extremely gratifying to know we’ve been working with some of the finest future physicians in the country, and we look forward to seeing their future successes. Congratulations to all in the Class of 2012!”

By Frank Reider, GUMC Communications

(Published May 21, 2012)