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Congratulations, Class of 2016

POSTED ON May 17, 2016

114th commencement ceremonyMuch has changed since the early 1900s when Temple University sent its first class of medical school graduates out into the world. The size of the class has increased, teaching methods have evolved, and technology has become an indispensable part of medicine. 

While the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) name may have been different from past ceremonies, the feelings at the school’s 114th commencement on the morning of May 13 were unchanged – pure joy. Altogether, 228 students received diplomas this year. They were chosen from more than 10,000 other applicants to come to Temple; earned undergraduate degrees from 104 different universities; and hailed from 26 states and 20 countries. As these former strangers gathered together for the last time, nostalgia mixed with smiles to create a shared experience none will forget.

The day began early as the soon-to-be graduates gathered upstairs at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and donned their black robes. Tassels were adjusted, hugs exchanged and selfies snapped. Gerald Sterling, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Education, reminded students that this was their “final test of medical school” and that they should turn and face the audience after receiving their diplomas because “that’s who wants to see you.”

In the main hall, hundreds of family members and friends filed in to fill the red velvet seats. As the graduates began their march down the aisle, hundreds of cell phones were held aloft to photograph and video the robe-clad honorees. Pockets of applause and whoops broke out as loved ones were spotted.    

Larry R. Kaiser, MD, FACS, Dean of LKSOM and President and CEO of the Temple University Health System, addressed the graduates and attendees – remarking that “those of us in medicine are extremely fortunate…we are moved by an altruistic purpose.”

“Altruism makes the betterment of other people’s situations the currency of personal gain. Through helping others, we pay ourselves. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

He also elicited laughter when he quoted Theodor Geisel – namesake of Dartmouth’s school of medicine but better known as Dr. Seuss – who said: “You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.”

“Remember these sage words of Seuss on the bad days,” said Dr. Kaiser. “Days you are frustrated and angry and want to kick yourself for getting into this whole morass in the first place – with regulatory red tape and policies that practically make patients beside the point. You will have banner days of burnout. But then you’ll catch yourself caring all over again.

“And this is a key point. I want you to remember it: That medicine’s calling, your calling, is self-regenerative. It always comes back. And that is a tremendous gift.”  

Dr. Kaiser was followed by this year’s commencement keynote speaker, Roberta Ness, MD, MPH, Vice President for Innovation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. 

Dr. Ness spoke to the graduates about “Physicianhood Meets the Unimaginable.” She described a future world where patients wear sensors to monitor their health, web-synched avatars monitor their activity and intelligent robots become master diagnosticians. 

“Our future is an exercise in imagining the unimaginable…I have no idea what your future holds,” Dr. Ness told the graduates. “However, I would argue that these trends will not make you indispensable. Physicality will become more important – listening, communicating, having compassion. The touch of your hand or the look in your eye may be the most important part of your diagnosis.” 

Other highlights of the morning included the dedication of the yearbook to Robert Bettiker, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, and speeches by student government officers Jordan Malenke and Adys Mendizabal. It was then time for the most anticipated part of the program – the conferring of degrees.

This year’s graduating class consisted of 183 students who earned the doctor of medicine degree; 2 who earned a dual medical degree and doctor of philosophy degree; 7, a dual medical degree and master of art’s degree; 8, the master of science degree; and 2, the master of art’s degree.   

In the Temple tradition, family members who also graduated from the School of Medicine or who serve on the faculty joined their graduating loved ones on stage when they received their diploma. The morning’s ceremony concluded with the reciting of the Hippocratic Oath and then the crowd poured out into the lobby for hugs and high-fives with the beaming new graduates. 

As the morning moved to the afternoon, the members of the class of 2016 – who had lived, studied and grown with each other for the past four years – went their separate ways, walking away with their diplomas firmly in hand and forever bonded by their experience.