Ceremony of Achievements: Commencement 2014

The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; a Nobel Laureate; a pioneering cancer researcher and champion of women scientists; and a leading physician and medical journalist were among those honored at the 45th annual Commencement of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, held Friday, May 9, at Avery Fisher Hall.

In a jubilant ceremony before faculty, staff, and graduates and their families and friends, Mount Sinai granted a total of 128 MDs, 57 PhDs, and 74 Masters degrees to medical students and students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Ambassador Samantha Power, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, delivered the commencement address.

In her remarks, Ambassador Power called on the graduating students to remember the important role their medical careers will play in patients’ lives. Drawing from the experiences of her mother, Veronica Delaney, MD, Senior Faculty in the Department of Medicine (Nephrology) who was on the dais, Ambassador Power reflected on the similarities between being a doctor and a diplomat.

“For me, being an ambassador is the greatest privilege of my life. As physicians and scientists, you have an even more profound privilege—of trying to find a cure. Instead of saying, ‘I am a doctor,’ or ‘I am a scientist,’ say: ‘I am privileged to be a doctor, I am privileged to be a scientist.’ Never forget that you are privileged. Your work is, above all, public service.”
She also shared her belief that in both diplomacy and medicine, individuals need to “listen and see,” to “respect and reflect dignity,” and to “never be afraid to question, which is a sign of humility and tremendous confidence.”

Ambassador Power also was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her passionate defense of human rights around the world and her advocacy of international intervention in humanitarian crises.

Additionally, honorary Doctor of Science degrees were awarded to:

  • Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent, CNN, an accomplished neurosurgeon and Emmy-award-winning journalist, for his insightful reporting that has helped illuminate complex topics in medical science and human health for millions of Americans.
  • Nancy Haven Doe Hopkins, PhD, Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a renowned molecular biologist and a champion of equity for women in science, whose work shed new light on the mechanisms that cause cancer and laid the foundation for future generations of women to pursue careers in the sciences.
  • Louis J. Ignarro, PhD, a Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist whose groundbreaking investigations of nitric oxide have given scientists crucial insight into the role of nitric oxide in the human body and paved the way for novel drug therapies to treat a range of conditions, from hypertension to impotence. Dr. Ignarro is the Jerome J. Belzer, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.

Peter W. May, Chairman, Boards of Trustees, Mount Sinai Health System, told the guests: “You have been witness to, and beneficiaries of, an unprecedented period of transformation, and today, the Mount Sinai Health System is dramatically accelerating our efforts to refocus the delivery of health care.” The Icahn School of Medicine serves as the academic cornerstone of the Mount Sinai Health System, which was established in September 2013 when Mount Sinai combined with the former Continuum Health Partners.

Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System, congratulated the graduates and recalled some of their outstanding achievements. “Mount Sinai students, physicians, and scientists have always been defined by strength of character and virtues, such as compassion, integrity, creativity, social justice, and courage,” he told the audience.

“Compassion is the essence of outstanding practice, and integrity is central to patient trust and an absolute requirement in scientific research,” he continued. “Creativity brings greater openness to new experiences and boldness in risk-taking, and you have already demonstrated an admirable moral compass through your medical outreach in East Harlem and around the globe. Clinicians, you will need courage to help your sickest patients, and scientists, you will need courage to accept and learn from failure to achieve scientific breakthroughs.”

Kenneth L. Davis, MD, Chief Executive Officer and President, Mount Sinai Health System, highlighted the challenges of addressing public health threats during a time of major health care reform. “You may think: ‘I might be able to help my patients reduce obesity, and I can encourage end-of-life planning, but I cannot stimulate drug discovery or implement change on a national, state, or even municipal level.’ But that line of thinking underestimates the special place you, as a physician, will hold in society, and it obscures your responsibility to your patients.”

Dr. Davis continued: “As doctors, you must take advantage of your status within the community to educate policy makers and politicians about important health issues, participate in local and regional politics, and be a voice of reason in an increasingly polarized debate. The future of health care is in your hands—and knowing who each of you are, and what you have already accomplished, I am confident that our future is in good hands.”

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