University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala congratulated the Miller School of Medicine's Class of 2015 in what was her final commencement address. In turn, the 196 Miller School graduates receiving their medical degrees each gave Shalala a big hug after being hooded at the ceremony at the BankUnited Center Saturday evening.
"You are leaving an enduring and unmatched legacy that has transformed our great school into a top-tier institution," said Stuart A. Miller, chair of the UM Board of Trustees, in a moving tribute to the outgoing president. "Donna Shalala has imparted to all of us the values that she holds dear, while showing her dedication to the students of our great university. We will miss her."
In welcoming the graduates and their hundreds of family members and friends to the center, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School, said, "We recognize the class of 2015 as the best-ever class to graduate from the Miller School of Medicine. Today, you become physicians who have the opportunity to prevent illness and heal your patients."
Goldschmidt noted that the class included the first graduates of the Miller School's four-year M.D./M.P.H. dual degree program. Later in the ceremony, he presented Shalala with a special medallion from the "Miller School of Medicine family" as a keepsake for her service.
When Shalala took the stage to give her advice to the graduates, she received a lengthy standing ovation. "This is a challenging and exhilarating time to be entering the medical profession," she said. "As each new phase of health care reform is implemented, you will be at the forefront of a new era of providing care to all who need it. The knowledge and skills you have learned here will make the world a better place, and your humanity will help to heal it."
Shalala urged the new physicians to look beyond their training when helping patients and families confront the confusing and frightening world of illness. "Lift up your patients' hearts," she said. "Your compassion and concern are essential when using the great tools of modern health care. I wish you challenging lives full of purpose, good health and adventure."
After Shalala's talk, William Burns, M.D., gave the student address. A former Naval aviation officer who served as class president for three years, Burns will begin his residency in general surgery this summer at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.
"I knew from the beginning that our class was special," said Burns. "No one in our class was taken from the waiting list because everyone accepted their offers." He also urged the graduates to find balance physically, mentally, and spiritually while growing as physicians. "There is no doubt in my mind that the Class of 2015 will have a significant impact on the future of medicine," he concluded.
Some new doctors like Shawntira Johnson, M.D., will stay in Miami to begin residencies at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital. "I plan to be a hospitalist and educate other professionals about mental health issues," said Johnson. Other graduates are heading out of state, like Aliza Epstein, M.D., who will begin her residency in medicine at Icahn School of Medicine/St. Luke's in New York, followed by a residency in ophthalmology at Kresge Eye Institute/Wayne State University in Detroit.
William Grubb, M.D./M.P.H., and his fiancé Danielle Weiss, M.D., will take the next stage of their medical journeys together. "We met at the Miller School," said Weiss, B.S. ’11, who will begin her residency in neurology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Grubb is also heading to Case Western as a resident in radiation oncology.
Several members of the UM Board of Trustees were present, including Hilarie Bass, Allan M. Herbert and Ronald G. Stone. Trustee Edward A. Dauer, M.D. ’75, stepped down from the dais to hood his son Ryan Dauer, M.D., at the ceremony.
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 at the Miller School regional campus in Palm Beach County, presented the graduates from the 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.