Celebrating a Milestone Surrounded by Family and Friends

MD candidates

Faculty adorned in colorful regalia welcomed the MD/PhD Class of 2019 to the community of scientists and physicians on Thursday, May 16, at Boston University’s Track & Tennis Center. Sharing the occasion with their families and friends, tears of joy, hugs and the occasional hoot and howl of relief were audible as 206 students received their degrees

BUSM conferred 168 medical degrees, seven MD/PhDs, three MD/MBAs, one MD/MPH, one MD/JD and 26 PhDs; 26 students earned Latin honors – 18 cum laude, six magna cum laude, and two achieved summa cum laude: Nicholas Zampariello and Julia Peay, the inaugural MD/JD recipient.

“We gather together today to publicly recognize and celebrate the credentials that these degree candidates have earned and this major life transition,” Boston University Medical Campus Provost and BUSM Dean Karen H. Antman shared. “The diploma you get today is the credential that grants you entry to the next stage of your education. Residency for MDs, post docs for PhDs, and then life-long learning.”

PhD Candidates

Two student speakers addressed the crowd. Timothy Norman, Jr., was the PhD speaker. He received his PhD in Molecular and Translational Medicine based on his dissertation on lymphatic development in the embryonic and early post-natal lung. During graduate school he became the father of two children. After graduation, he will be joining the Center for Regenerative Medicine as a post doctoral fellow.

“During all this, we have written papers and grants, given countless presentations and forged strong relationships … This is the end of an important chapter in our lives, but also the beginning of a bright future for each and every one of us!”

MD class speaker Michael Ghio was a founder of a student professionalism and ethics group, co-chair of a program that mentors high school students interested in careers in science and medicine, and a volunteer at a women and children’s shelter in the South End. He will become a general surgery resident at Tulane University in New Orleans in June. He shared, “Your success cannot exist without failure just as good cannot exist without evil…on those days ahead when you will go home feeling like a failure, that you feel isolated, or that you aren’t cut out for this field, remember this means you have also succeeded, that peers who you can rely on surround you, and that you are destined for the success you work so hard to cultivate. Celebrate your successes and cherish your failure, and forever value this amazing ride we have all been on together.”

As is custom, the graduating class selects their graduation speaker. The invited speaker was Ann McKee, MD, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Pathology, Director of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Neuropathy Core and Chief of Neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System.  Dr. McKee directs the brain banks for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center and the Framingham Heart Study.

Watch Dr. McKee’s convocation address below.

She and her team have published groundbreaking research on repetitive head trauma in athletes and soldiers. She was named Bostonian of the Year in 2017 by The Boston Globe, one of TIME Magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People in 2018 and this year she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and received the Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award in Alzheimer’s Research from the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I cannot imagine a greater honor than to be asked by the students for words to carry them into their future. It made me look back at my life and realize how much medicine and science have meant to me. …What would my life be like if I hadn’t taken this path? And the truth is – I simply cannot imagine it,” said Dr. McKee.

“Being a doctor and a scientist have been the singularly most meaningful aspects of my life … medicine has defined my life in ways I could never have imagined when I was young. Being a physician scientist is like being on a magical mystery tour – a wild, unpredictable tour through the mysteries of the human body, the enigmatic human brain, the awe-inspiring human mind and the limitless human spirit.”

Dr. McKee described the path, one that required determination and perseverance, which led her to challenge the NFL “to speak up – speak up for the voiceless, speak up for the patients and families who suffered, and the patients and families who would suffer in the future if nothing were done. I worked incessantly, because I believed and still believe, that if I could provide enough data, people would see the light.”

In closing Dr. McKee provided this advice to the 2019 Class of doctors and scientists, “Believe in yourself. People will judge you. Don’t let those people define you. Believe in yourself and push forward. Work hard. Success isn’t a matter of luck; know what you want and go after it. Tell the truth. Let the truth be your guide, even if it is uncomfortable, unwelcome and inconvenient. Tell the truth even if it’s hard to do and people don’t want to hear it. Stand up and speak the truth for your patients because they will not have your knowledge or your power. Be the voice for the voiceless. Tell the hard truth, tell it over and over and over, tell it until it is heard and people listen. Make the world a better place.”

Congratulations, Class of 2019!

View the Facebook album for photos from the day.