School of Medicine – 111th Commencement
Urging graduates to remain true to the highest goals of the medical profession, David Kessler, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, delivered an inspirational keynote address at the School of Medicine’s 111th commencement exercises on Sunday, May 26.
During his speech, Kessler called upon the graduates to devote themselves to improving the quality of life for others.
“My concern is that I see around me so many doctors, and so few healers. For a doctor does not become a healer by virtue of a medical degree,” he said.
More than 2,500 family and friends attended the medical school’s commencement, held at the Shrine Auditorium.
This year marked the expansion of the ceremony to include greater participation by graduate students. Of the 158 total graduating in the school’s ceremony, there were 13 master of science candidates, 27 Ph.D. candidates and one M.D./Ph.D. candidate in addition to the 117 doctors of medicine.
M.D./Ph.D. student Brian Sippy was only the second person in the history of the medical school ever to graduate from this program, according to Sandra Mosteller, administrative director and special assistant to the associate dean of scientific affairs.
Joseph Van Der Meulen, vice president for health affairs and interim dean, presided over the ceremony. Stephen Ryan, senior vice president for medical affairs and executive dean of the medical school, opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks. Dale Garell, senior associate dean for academic affairs, served as the grand marshal.
In his address, Kessler exhorted students to give their lives to their profession. “Medicine in your lifetime may be advanced in the laboratories, it may be preserved in the classrooms, but it will be ennobled by those of you who are ready to cover yourselves with blood, sweat and tears,” he said.
Kessler has served as FDA commissioner since December 1990. He instituted changes in the agency’s operation to speed the approval of new drugs, placing high priority on finding therapies for serious and life-threatening diseases.
Formerly the medical director of the hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Kessler held teaching appointments in pediatrics and the epidemiology and social medicine. From 1986 until joining the FDA, he also taught food and drug law at Columbia University School of Law.
Edward Cornwell, a USC assistant professor of surgery and a trauma surgeon at the LAC+USC Medical Center also addressed the graduates.
In his talk, “The Quest for Excellence,” Cornwell spoke frankly with the students about the challenges of practicing medicine in an increasing complex health-care environment. He outlined some harsh realities and offer sound advice for coping.
“You are preparing to enter the toughest year of your life, especially after the glory of being a medical student,” he said. “This is a great day of pomp and circumstance, but the truth of commitment to the profession will be determined when you are on call.”
Two student speakers, elected by their peers, also addressed the crowd. On a light-hearted note, graduate Jason Black presented his top-10 reasons to rejoice at commencement. (No. 1: “Graduation means we did it”; No. 2: “A whole month of vacation”; No. 9 “I can introduce myself as ‘Dr. Black’ and not feel guilty.”) Graduate Dawn Thompson then gave her speech, titled “Reflections and Challenges: A Time to Laugh, Cry and Move On.”
Rabbi Susan Laemmle, interim university chaplain and director of the USC Hillel Jewish Center, led the ceremony’s benediction. At the conclusion of the commencement, graduates and their guests gathered for a reception at Founder’s Park on the University Park Campus.