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Temple University School of Medicine Celebrates 113th Commencement

POSTED ON May 11, 2015

Arthur Feldman, MD, PhDLarry R. Kaiser, MD, FACSThey beat out over 11,000 other applicants. Earned undergraduate degrees from 109 different universities. Hailed from 26 states. And worked as researchers, coaches, waiters and lifeguards in their prior lives.

On the evening of May 6, these 244 former strangers gathered together one last time to take part in Temple University School of Medicine’s 113th commencement – a shared experience none will forget and the capstone on years of hard work and sacrifice.

As hundreds of family members and friends milled about in the soaring lobby of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts waiting for the ceremony to begin, the pumped-up graduates were upstairs in a not-quite-large-enough holding room donning their black robes with dark green velvet trim. Hats were straightened, hugs exchanged and photos snapped. Gerald Sterling, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Education, offered important last-minute reminders, including a plea to “turn off your cell phones.”

In the main hall, attendees filed in to fill Kimmel’s red velvet seats. As the graduates began their march down the aisle, hundreds of cell phones began photographing and videotaping the robe-clad honorees. Pockets of applause and whoops broke out as loved ones were spotted. From three stories up in the hall’s highest balcony, people waved to graduates like they were signaling a rescue plane.

Welcoming the crowd was Arthur Feldman, MD, PhD, Executive Dean of the School of Medicine and Chief Academic Officer for the Temple University Health System. Dr. Feldman commented on the diversity of the class and the multiple journeys each member took to reach this point.            

Larry R. Kaiser, MD, FACS, Dean of the School of Medicine and President and CEO of the Temple University Health System, addressed the graduates and attendees – remarking that the class of 2015 was the first he had followed through all four years.  

“I had only been at Temple a few months when we held your White Coat Ceremony,” he reminisced. “You have been a great class and have chosen a challenging path to follow. Never forget what medicine offers you – personal satisfaction on a daily basis.”    

This year’s commencement keynote speaker was Ralph Horwitz, MD, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Medicine, and the Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Epidemiology, Yale University.  

Dr. Horwitz spoke to the graduates about the powerful role a patient’s “biography” plays in his or her care.  

“The social and environmental factors present in patients’ lives – their biography –often trumps their biology,” said Dr. Horwitz, who grew up above his father’s candy store just a few blocks from Temple University. “Imagine two women with identical cases of rheumatoid arthritis, both with treatments tailored to their individual biology. A year after treatment, one woman is thriving and the other is disabled. The difference lies in how they live their lives.

“Discover your patient’s stories,” he urged the graduates. “Get to know them and create ‘social prescriptions’ for them, not just medication prescriptions.”  

An emotional highlight of the evening came when it was announced that this year’s school yearbook would be dedicated to Richard Kozera, MD, the longtime Executive Associate Dean of TUSM who passed away in August 2014. Each year, Dr. Kozera served as master of ceremonies at the White Coat Ceremony and commencement.

There to accept the honor were his daughter Leslie and son Matthew, who told the crowd that “our father lived and breathed the Temple mission.” At the conclusion of their emotional remarks, the crowd stood for an extended ovation.

Following some lighthearted words from class President Andrew Chansky and Vice President Laura Ramirez-Caban, it was time for the degree-conferring part of the ceremony. This year’s graduating class consisted of 201 students who earned the doctor of medicine degree; eight who earned a dual medical degree and doctor of philosophy degree; 17, the doctor of philosophy degree; four, a dual medical degree and master of art’s degree; 13, the master of science degree; and one, 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 evening’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.

The members of the class of 2015 – who had lived, studied and grown with each other for the past four years – disappeared into the night one by one, walking away separately but forever bonded to each other.