UMass Medical School announces 2018 Commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients

UMass Medical School Communications

April 06, 2018

The 45th Commencement Exercises at UMass Medical School on Sunday, June 3, will recognize the accomplishments of ground-breaking physician-scientist Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD; Duke University nursing leader Marion E. Broome, PhD, RN, FAAN; and Cyrus S. Poonawalla, PhD, founder, chairman and managing director of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

  Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD

Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD

Dr. Zoghbi will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony and will receive, along with Dr. Broome and Dr. Poonawalla, an honorary degree from UMass Medical School.

Zoghbi is a professor of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, neurology, and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine. She has earned election to the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine, is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and directs the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital. In 2016, Zoghbi was awarded the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Zoghbi’s career took an unexpected turn in the 1980s when, as a resident, she encountered a young girl with Rett syndrome, which had recently been described in a report in Annals of Neurology and named for Andreas Rett, an early researcher of the disorder. Frustrated by the limited relief she could provide to Rett patients and their families at that time, Zoghbi sought to understand the cause of the syndrome and other rare neurological disorders. Sixteen years after Zoghbi first met the Rett syndrome patient, her lab identified MECP2, the gene responsible for causing the disorder. This discovery, along with her other groundbreaking discoveries in neurodegeneration, are now being used to develop better therapies for more common neurological disorders including autism, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

  Marion E. Broome, PhD, RN, FAAN

Marion E. Broome, PhD

Broome is dean and the Ruby Wilson Professor of Nursing at Duke University’s School of Nursing, which is ranked first in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Broome is also vice chancellor for nursing affairs at Duke University and associate vice president for academic affairs for nursing at Duke University Health System. She is renowned as an expert in pediatric nursing research and practice. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and other foundations, her clinical research has involved developing new interventions to help children cope with acute and chronic pain. More recently her work has explored ethical considerations in pediatric clinical trials and publishing. Broome serves as editor-in-chief of Nursing Outlook, the journal of the American Academy of Nursing and the Council for Advancing Nursing Science. In addition to her roles at Duke, she consults about nursing care, research and professional development at a number of nursing schools and hospitals nationwide.

Poonawalla is the founder, chairman and managing director of the Serum Institute of India. Based in Pune, the Serum Institute of India has evolved into the world’s largest vaccine maker, producing 1.5 billion doses annually that are administered in 170 countries. By making high-quality vaccines available at affordable prices, the Serum Institute of India is credited with saving millions of lives; in fact, an estimated two-thirds of the world’s children have received at least one of the institute’s vaccines.

  Cyrus S. Poonawalla, PhD

Cyrus S. Poonawalla, PhD

Among his many awards and recognitions, Poonawalla has been named one of the “seven most influential vaccine heroes of the world” by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Serum Institute of India’s partnership with UMass Medical School led to the successful 2017 launch of RabiShield, a first-of-its-kind treatment for rabies, a disease that claims more than 50,000 lives worldwide each year. Poonawalla’s business success is matched only by his philanthropic support of schools, hospitals, public parks and civic projects, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in free or subsidized vaccines.

Approximately 180 students from the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Nursing and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences will receive their degrees this year. The students comprise a remarkable cohort of talented individuals who exemplify the mission of UMass Medical School. Commencement will take place on Sunday, June 3, on the campus green, with seating beginning at 11 a.m., the processional initiating at 11:45 a.m. and the ceremony starting promptly at noon.