Class of 2014 Celebrates the End of a Journey

“We made it!”

With that declaration, student speaker Corey Martin, M.D., captured the feeling of the entire Class of 2014 as the Miller School graduates received their medical degrees at the commencement ceremony held at the BankUnited Center Saturday evening.

Before the processional fanfare began, the men and women about to embark on their careers in medicine excitedly put on their robes, embraced one another and smiled nervously in anticipation. As Martin noted in his speech, over the past four or more years the graduates had turned from friends into family, urging one another to find their “light” so the “world can shine a little more brilliantly.”

View photos of the ceremony >>

Stephanie Adamczak, M.D., Ph.D., said it has been “a very long road,” but on this day she felt wonderful. Her dual degree took eight years, but she is now heading to a neurological surgery residency at the University of Florida. Her colleague, Ansel Amaral, M.D., Ph.D., said he was “ecstatic” and “ready to put it to good use.” He’ll be on a research track for medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

In welcoming the graduates and their hundreds of family members and friends who filled the auditorium, Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., reminded the newly minted physicians that “there is much more to the art of medicine than technology and knowledge.” He urged them to be “guided by the qualities that come from your heart,” such as compassion, patience, empathy and respect for human rights.

A similar message came from President Donna E. Shalala, who told the M.D. recipients they were entering a new era of healthcare. “The knowledge and skills you have learned here will make the world a better place,” she said, “but your humanity will heal it.”

Sue Miller, whose family made the extraordinary $100 million gift to name and transform the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, was present, along with her daughter, Leslie Miller Saiontz, Director of the family’s Miller Foundation. Also taking part in the ceremony was presiding UM Trustee and Miller School alumnus Edward A. Dauer, M.D. Other UM Trustees present were Joaquin F. Blaya, Thelma V.A. Gibson, Allan M. Herbert, Arthur H. Hertz and Ronald G. Stone.

This year’s Honorary Degree Recipient was Institute of Medicine President Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., a global thought leader in the field of public health, who has been a consultant to the World Health Organization and led research in the fields of vaccines, HIV/AIDS, and the reform of medical education. He served as Provost of Harvard University from 1997 to 2001, following 13 years as Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Fineberg’s address drew chuckles when he confessed that he had no recollection of what anyone said at his own medical commencement. Yet he hoped to impart three key lessons to the Miller School Class of 2014. First, he told the new physicians they had “only begun a journey of lifelong learning.” A researcher of the social implications of new medical technologies, Fineberg said the graduates would always be confronting new technology, new ideas and new discoveries that would contribute to the care of their patients.

Secondly, he implored them to act with compassion, even when they felt overworked, under-appreciated and sleep deprived. “That is when your actions will lead to feelings of compassion,” said Fineberg, a winner of the Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health.

Lastly, Fineberg suggested the graduates tailor their clinical practice to each patient. “It is not just what you do, but how you do it.”

As the graduates’ names were called, each was hooded and received their degree, drawing shouts and applause from throughout the auditorium. Some graduates were hooded by parents who are alums or faculty members, and who took time for a quick embrace.

Olivia Severdija, M.D., held a bouquet of flowers as she considered her future. “It’s inspiring to know you’re going to do good for so many people.” She moves north to start her residency in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

One of the last bits of advice from Fineberg was a reminder that the new doctors were on the “threshold of an exciting and constantly changing career, one that serves humanity.”

“You have earned this day,” he said.

Read about one family’s expanding UM legacy here.

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