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So Long, Farewell, Class of 2015

May 14, 2015

Excited students waiting to be hooded

The Class of 2015 received their doctoral hoods in a special graduation ceremony at the Baltimore Convention Center on May 14. Hundreds of family, friends and faculty were there to cheer on the 157 graduates as they officially transitioned from students to doctors. “No longer will you be able to use your favorite excuse ‘I’m only the med student,’ ” joked David Mallott, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Associate Dean of Medical Education, who also advised the new doctors that “being a physician is defined much more by what you think and say than by what you do. Our technical prowess is an extension of what we think and what we say. What you say, not only to patients but in all aspects of life, now matters much, much more. Let your words ring with truth.”

 The power of words was a recurring theme throughout the ceremony. “The Class of 2015 is the class with a voice,” declared class president Greg Lassans in his speech. “We have used our voices to express our support and dissent time and time again. We have published, we have written letters and petitions, we have given speeches, and we have sung songs. And, for the record, I doubt any other class has achieved the amount of You Tube fame that we have! (The class is infamous for their medical school parody videos.) In four years we have been many, many things. But we have seldom been quiet. Through our voices we have made our mark on this school. That doesn’t end this morning. If we are to be successful doctors to our patients, our country and our world, we must continue to be successful in getting our messages across.”

Alexi Pappas, who was chosen to receive the Faculty Gold Medal for Outstanding Qualifications in the Practice of Medicine, believes that listening is as important as speaking. “Being effective caregivers requires not only the application of our technical expertise, not only our intense focus on fixing particular presenting pathologies, but a real commitment to learning about patients’ experiences,” he said. “We need to understand the social and cultural factors that influence health and be engaged citizens and community members. We have so much left to learn to be good at what we do, to become effective doctors. Let’s remember to learn some of it from the people we serve.”

 Serving patients well is not an easy task in these tumultuous times. “Great challenges await you,” E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine, proclaimed to the students. “You are entering into this profession at a time of unparalleled convergence: a vastly changing health care environment, new and emerging life-saving technologies and a phenomenally growing need to improve human health. Never has the time to make your mark been greater than in the days and years ahead of you.”

In his keynote speech, Philip Needleman, PhD, former President of Research & Development at Searle and former Chief Science Officer at Monsanto, reflected upon the amazing progress medicine has made in the last 200 years,  particularly since he earned his PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1964. Whole new areas of medicine have been created, including vaccinology, genomics, epidemiology and public health, and immunotherapy. Changes will continue to come at a faster and faster pace “when you graduates master new skills, experience new adventures, and take on the great challenges in our society, said Dr. Needleman. “Take a deep breath, and enjoy the journey. I wish I could be in your shoes.”

 Graduation ceremonies were also held on May 14 for the Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science (PTRS, seen throwing their caps in celebration below), the Department of Medical and Research Technology (DMRT), the Masters in Genetic Counseling program, and the Graduate Program in Life Sciences (GPILS). The Department of Epidemiology & Public Health will have their graduation exercises on May 15.

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