We said farewell to the Class of 2016 just weeks ago, and its members have dispersed, perhaps for a well-deserved vacation before taking the next steps in their professional lives. They are ready. Whether they are entering residency, postdoctoral research, further degree programs or careers, we are confident they will have a positive impact as scientists and physicians.
Our students come to us with exceptional talents, and they receive outstanding teaching, but just as important are the values and commitment that they bring to their own education, each other and the wider community. Each year, the College of Medicine shines a little more as it reflects their contributions, and our graduates take what they have learned and put it into the service of the greater good.
Daniel V. Schidlow, MD
Alumni and current students represent our guiding principles to future students and the larger world. Among them are the promotion of research for the benefit of humanity, a commitment to local and global communities, a tradition of providing educational opportunity to those who might not otherwise have it, the delivery of compassionate care, and a culture of collaboration and diversity.
This year's Commencement speaker, the Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, has been a significant figure in the history of diversity in this country, in health care, in health literacy, and particularly in the access of African Americans to medical education.
Dr. Sullivan was the founding dean and longtime president of Morehouse School of Medicine. As secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services under the first President Bush, he established what became the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, inaugurated the Women's Health Research Program at NIH, and appointed the first female director of NIH, the first female (and first Hispanic) Surgeon General, and the first African American Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. He has built his life around fighting for health equity.
Dr. Sullivan reminded us that in spite of what we have learned from biomedical research, we are not the healthiest nation on earth. "We have a distribution problem in our health system," he said.
"This is the unfinished business that you must take on in your professional careers. To the degree that you take responsibility for [improving our system] — to that degree the health of our nation will be improved," he added.
"I challenge you to live up to the ideals of your profession. You now are leaders. I challenge you to lead and serve." Good words for all to live by and a precept I believe our graduates already take to heart.