Commencement Speakers Advise Miller School Graduates to Follow Their Passion to Serve

University of Miami President Julio Frenk clearly recalls the day he chose a career in medicine. Speaking to the Miller School of Medicine’s Class of 2016 at the May 7 commencement ceremony at the BankUnited Center, Frenk said he originally considered becoming an anthropologist.

“Growing up in Mexico, I felt a strong need to give back to the country that sheltered my parents when they escaped from Nazi Germany in the 1930s,” he said.

When Frenk was 16, he spent a summer studying anthropology in a rural community in the state of Chiapas.

“While sitting at the health post [clinic], I saw a poor woman come in covered with blood,” he said. “She had been injured while walking through the mountains for three hours carrying her sick grandson in her arms. But when she arrived there was no one in the health post, and neither the anthropologist nor I could do anything to help them. At that point, I said to myself, I am not going to study these people – I am going to serve them.”

Frenk’s words resonated with many of the new Miller School doctors, who talked about their own journeys and future plans at a post-commencement reception.

“I enjoyed hearing President Frenk, because I was also studying anthropology on a trip to West Africa, when I decided to become a doctor instead,” said Emily Ryon, M.D., M.P.H., who will begin a general surgery residency at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

For Gaurav Singh, M.D., M.P.H., the life-changing decision to become a physician occurred while working at a leprosy colony in Nepal. A love of science led to a medical career for Bryan Haimes, M.D., M.P.H., who will enter a dual residency program in internal medicine and pediatrics at Christiana Care in Delaware. For Joanne Duara, M.D., M.P.H., it was growing up in a medical family. She will be entering the pediatric residency program at UM/Jackson, where her mother, Shahnaz Duara, M.D., professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, is Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Stuart Miller, Chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, introduced Frenk to the 191 new Miller School doctors and their family members and friends attending the ceremony. He also highlighted the new one-of-kind University of Miami Presidential Chair designed and crafted by Austin Matheson, a master furniture maker and adjunct professor of architecture.

“This chair is a great symbol of the history and progress of our University,” he said.

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Dean of the Miller School, hosted the annual convocation, recognizing the M.D. and M.D./M.P.H. members of the school’s 61st graduating class. “Today, you officially become physicians with the opportunity to prevent illness and help those who need care,” he said. “But remember there is more to the art of medicine than academics. Your science-based training and cutting-edge medical tools must be guided by the emotions of your heart – compassion, concern, patience and respect. I know your dedication to those principles will make us all proud.”

The student speaker, Derek Jordan Estes, M.D., emphasized the lasting importance of relationships forged at the Miller School.

“Today, we are a family who came together on the four years of our voyage through medical school,” he said. “As we move on with our careers, let us maintain that feeling, and remember that every patient we treat is also a member of someone’s family.”

Maria Victoria Egusquiza, M.D. ’87, President of the Miller School’s Medical Alumni Association, also emphasized the importance of staying connected with the University of Miami.

“Your four years here have been an experience you will long treasure as you go on to rewarding careers in medicine,” she said.

In his first Miller School commencement address as UM president, Frenk told the new physicians, “You are entering the medical profession at a time of profound transformation to the health care system.” He noted that the ongoing implementation of the 2010 U.S. Affordable Care Act is expanding access to insurance coverage while the delivery of services is shifting from fee-based to value-based reimbursement. “This change in the U.S. system is very important from a global point of view, as countries around the world watch what is happening here,” he said.

Frenk added that the U.S. medical educational system also needs to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of health care.

“It is no longer enough to master the content of your courses,” he said. “You must also master the context of your practice, and become professionals with a strong ethical framework who become leaders and change agents who improve the overall health system.”

At the convocation, Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, presented the graduates from the Miami campus, and Daniel Lichtstein, M.D., Regional Dean for Medical Education, presented the graduates from the Palm Beach County regional campus. A musical group from the Miller School called Doctor’s Note performed the national anthem and sang the “Alma Mater,” accompanied by the Frost School of Music brass ensemble.

Several photo galleries from commencement events are available here.

A photo gallery from the senior banquet is available here.

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