By Kristen O’Reilly UMass Medical School Communications
“We must have the courage to be brave in action. Use your knowledge and skills, continue to make a difference. For that is your calling,” said Johnson Sirleaf. “You are the counterpoint to the pain of the world.”
Chancellor Michael F. Collins said Johnson Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was an inspirational choice to speak to the graduates and receive an honorary degree.
“In the face of adversity, you have long been admired for your ability to balance great strength with profound compassion,” said Chancellor Collins. “We are especially honored by your presence here today because of the deep relationship between our campus and your country. It is a privilege for those in our community to partner with talented and resourceful colleagues in Liberia, as together, we care for all who are in need.”
This year’s class of graduating students is the largest in UMass Worcester history. Of the 248 total gradates, 111 received MDs from the School of Medicine. The Graduate School of Nursing awarded 50 master’s degrees, six post-master’s certificates; four doctor of nursing practice degrees and six PhDs; and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences awarded three master’s degrees and 64 PhDs. Four MD/PhDs were also awarded.
“As you chart your futures, we shall watch with much anticipation for your many accomplishments. We hope that you will remain mindful that our communities, our commonwealth, our nation and our world need you,” said Chancellor Collins. “We need your intellect and innovation. We need your care and compassion. We need your humility and humanity.”
“Most importantly, we need you to remember that while many days will not be easy, or many nights restful, you are not alone,” said Chancellor Collins.
Other honorary degrees were given to Boston businessman and philanthropist Joseph O’Donnell, founder of the Joey Fund, and U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA.
In addition to Johnson Sirleaf, one student from each school spoke. James Ferguson, who received his MD, told his classmates that a great deal of his education came from them, saying “I wish you everything.”
The Graduate School of Nursing’s Phylis Muthee, who received her MS, spoke about the four C’s of teamwork; communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration. “Let us go as leaders with a positive influence in the teams we work within,” she said.
“In a world where science is often mistrusted or misunderstood, we must be ambassadors who explain our work and advocate for the role of science in society. Doctors and nurses graduating with me today, I ask that you advocate not only for your patients but also for science that will provide future therapies that will greatly improve your patient’s lives,” said Allison Keeler, who received her PhD and represented the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Johnson Sirleaf said that she may receive other honorary degrees, but “this one will always remind me of the very close bonds between my country and this medical school. So many of your students and faculty have taken time away from their own lives to travel to Liberia to provide life-saving care to ensure a healthy population,” she said. “My people and my country appreciate all that you do.”