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Commencement Honors Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders

Dr. Julia Kendall has had a lot to juggle these last few years, being a wife, a mother and a Weill Cornell Medical College medical student. But she set her sights high, and on May 25 saw the culmination of her hard work and determination, crossing the stage at Carnegie Hall to receive her diploma with her 21-month-old son in her arms.

Congratulations to Weill Cornell's Class of 2016 from Weill Cornell Medicine on Vimeo.

"It's a big step in all of our lives," said the 28-year-old newly minted doctor, who in just a few months will begin a residency in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "I'm so happy for all of the graduates and their families. It's been a long journey, but absolutely worthwhile. I feel so grateful to everyone who supported me."

Weill Cornell Medicine's Class of 2016 during commencement on May 25 at Carnegie Hall.
All photos: Amelia Panico

Dr. Kendall was among 258 students – 139 fellow medical doctors, 62 Ph.D.s, 34 physician assistants, and 23 with master of science degrees – who graduated Wednesday. Vibrant red and white bouquets lined the Perelman Stage as Cornell University Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III joined Deans Laurie H. Glimcher, Gary Koretzky and Dr. Javaid I. Sheikh in conferring degrees on students graduating from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar.

With their education behind them, the graduates, including 34 doctors from Qatar, will begin their residencies, postdocs, fellowships and other phases of their careers. As they continue on in the field of medicine, Dr. Glimcher said, they will realize that the things that are worth doing are seldom easy.

"Being fearless means being open to trying new things with the confidence and the belief that you will succeed," Dr. Glimcher said in her final commencement address as the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. "I would ask you to set your sights high — aim high — as you dream about restoring people's health and saving lives, about unlocking the secrets of disease, or about building a better healthcare system for us all."

Dr. Kyuho Kang crosses the stage with his children, Derek, 4, and Chloe, 3, to receive his Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis.

That would be a fitting tribute to President Elizabeth Garrett, Cornell University's 13th president, Interim President Rawlings said. In her eight months as president, Garrett, who died from colon cancer on March 6, urged Cornell's students to be trailblazers. Her dying wish, to establish a fund to advance colon cancer research, exemplified her belief in the power of medicine to enhance people's lives. This year's graduates now have the education to do that, whether at patients' bedsides or the laboratory bench.

"As many of you know, Beth Garrett was a patient here both before and during her illness, and she was deeply grateful for the extraordinary, compassionate care she received," said Interim President Rawlings. "Whether you are earning a graduate degree or a medical degree, I hope you will go on to advance our understanding of health and disease, and to provide the excellent and compassionate patient care that was so important to our late president."

A career in medicine is not without challenges, as federal belt-tightening has limited biomedical research funding. But that shouldn't stymie ingenuity or impede discovery, said Dr. Koretzky, dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. Nor should it silence the graduates in the Class of 2016, who should remain courageous and take scientific risks — even with the possibility of failure.

"Although investigative work has been and will continue to be the foundation for amazing medical advances, the current climate for research funding does pose challenges for us all," Dr. Koretzky said. "But we have endeavored to teach you the skills necessary to succeed in this environment, whether your future will be in academia, in the private sector, or in public service. I believe with your hard work, you have all mastered these skills."

Indeed, Weill Cornell Medicine has instilled in the graduates the capacity to solve critical medical problems, which may transform the way scientists understand and physicians treat the most lethal diseases of our time.

Dr. Natalya Gertsik delivers her speech as the 2016 Distinguished Graduate Student Commencement Speaker.

"It's the ability to change the world," said Dr. Natalya Gertsik, the graduate school's student commencement speaker, of what a doctorate in the life sciences truly means. "And that's true in any profession you choose to pursue, whether it's doing science, writing about science, talking about science or standing up for science in policy. We have a responsibility to lead and continue to make a difference."

An important part of being a leader is to understand the dynamics of a global society — to quickly adapt to a culturally diverse world, to attend to patients' needs and values.

"I hope you will always cherish the privilege of learning about and taking care of an incredibly diverse community, just like you did in medical school," said Dr. Vignesh Shanmugam, valedictorian of Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar's Class of 2016 and that campus' student commencement speaker. "And just like you did in medical school, I hope you and I will continue to develop meaningful relationships with our patients, colleagues, teachers, students, friends and family."

So too should graduates relish in opportunities to learn something new. Weill Cornell Medicine — and the field of medicine — is an "eddy for expertise," said medical student commencement speaker Dr. Jeffrey Russ, a former student member of the institution's Board of Overseers who earned his doctorate two years ago. "Medical knowledge pools here," he said. Lifelong learning ensures that medicine can continue to advance and innovate — leading to a better future for all.

"We have no choice but to tirelessly apply the knowledge that we accumulated toward the advancement of biomedical research and healthcare for those who follow," he said, "so that human health does not evolve in place but progresses incrementally forward. Right now it is our turn to channel the lessons of our very educators as we embrace the responsibility of our new profession."

Weill Cornell Commencement 2016

Posted May 26, 2016 2:01 PM | Permalink to this post

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