UMass Medical School bestowed 193 degrees, including three honorary degrees, at its 45th Commencement exercises on the campus green on Sunday, June 3. Chancellor Michael F. Collins presided over the ceremony, calling on graduates to keep focusing on people.
“You will be exhorted at times to focus on work units, which have become a proxy for the effectiveness and efficiency of a practitioner’s efforts, but bring relatively little value to patients. Rebuff such admonitions and focus with full intensity on tender loving care,” Chancellor Collins said. “Our desire to care for others is what drew us to our professions.
“While technology has improved many aspects of patient care, only a caregiver can sense when a patient needs a little something more, a moment to compose themselves, a tender touch that characterizes meaningful moments of engagement and compassion that promotes their human dignity.”
Degrees presented included 105 Doctor of Medicine degrees; one Master of Science in clinical investigation degree; 60 Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the biomedical sciences; seven MD/PhD degrees; and, in nursing, two Master of Science degrees, two post-master’s certificates, two PhD degrees and 11 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees. Class of 2018 student speakers included Steven Krueger, MD, for the School of Medicine; Jill Moore, PhD, for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and Amelia Nelson, DNP, FNP, for the Graduate School of Nursing.
Groundbreaking physician-scientist Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, delivered the keynote address to graduates of the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Graduate School of Nursing. Dr. Zoghbi recounted her own journey growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, and fleeing after her first year of medical school, when civil war broke out. She completed her medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and her residency at Texas Children’s Hospital, where she met her first patient with Rett syndrome. The disease had just been identified in one European report that month, and Zoghbi was frustrated by the inability to offer treatment to patients. She and colleagues wrote the first clinical report on Rett syndrome in the United States in 1985.
“The problem was that we didn’t know what caused it, and we had no treatment to offer,” she said. “By this time, I was growing frustrated with the major limitation of pediatric neurology, namely, that there is usually very little one can do for the patients in terms of treatment. I would go home at night emotionally drained, and it took my husband William pointing out how unhappy I was for me to have the courage to alter my path one more time. I decided that I needed to get training in genetics in order to find the cause of Rett Syndrome and other neurological diseases.”
Sixteen years later, Zoghbi’s 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 other, more common neurological disorders including autism, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nursing leader Marion E. Broome, PhD, RN, FAAN, of Duke University; and Cyrus S. Poonawalla, PhD, founder, chairman and managing director of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, joined Dr. Zoghbi in receiving honorary degrees.
Watch video of the full ceremony here.