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VUSM’s class of 2013 ready to take on new challenges

May. 16, 2013, 9:04 AM

School of Medicine students, from left, Dustin Hipp, Dana Hipp, Kathleen Nemer and Jennifer Dang are fired up about commencement. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Class of 2013 will enter health care at a time of great change. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will begin the bulk of its health reform changes Jan. 1, 2014. New providers will enter a rapidly changing system of care.

On Friday, May 10, at their ceremony in Langford Auditorium, graduates were advised to be ready to make difficult decisions and become the leaders that will turn health care around.

“There are roughly 140 medical schools in this country, but only about 20 of them produce 80 percent of the leaders. Vanderbilt is a leader even within that small elite group,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, congratulates Femi Kassim during last week’s graduation ceremony in Langford Auditorium. At right is Scott Rodgers, M.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“Our graduating classes are among the smallest in the nation for a reason. We are not here to train the nation’s health care workforce; we are here to spend the extra time and energy to train the nation’s health care leadership.”

In his address to 111 graduates, Balser said that while health care is a team effort, Vanderbilt medical students must step up and be willing to make difficult calls, even when there is no “good” course of action. Doing so, he said, would develop the emotional resilience of leadership.

School of Medicine Founder’s Medalist Billy Sullivan, center, with Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and Bonnie Miller, M.D. (photo by Joe Howell)

He advised students to retain a sense of self-awareness, a strong support system, optimism, a sense of humor and perspective in everything they do.

The Class of 2013 is perhaps one of the most prepared to examine the issues of health care from many different angles.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Scott Rodgers, M.D., said the class is remarkable for having a large number of students who took a year or more off from medical school to pursue a dual degree (MBA, J.D., MPH, M.Ed.) or to become specially trained in an area of research.

Founder’s Medalist Billy Sullivan is a perfect example. He took a year off to earn his Masters in Education at Peabody. He worked with Medical School administrators to help shape the new Medical Curriculum 2.0. and said he hopes one day to teach in academic medicine.

VUSM student Rishi Naik, in back, bear hugs his brother, Darshan Naik, who presented him with his diploma. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“For me and many of the students I started with, it was wanting to bring another skill set to medicine, wanting to look at medicine through a different lens. Medicine is changing, it has to change, so we will need skills to facilitate the change,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is the first Vanderbilt student to earn an M.D./M.Ed. He said having the patience to extend formal education and diversify knowledge, far from creating more stress, created an opportunity to slow the pace and allow for learning to sink in.

It also allowed him to balance school with a busy home life with wife, Elisabeth, and their 5-month-old daughter, Mary Claire. Sullivan will begin his residency at Vanderbilt in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in July.

Within the Class of 2013 there were 16 underrepresented minority graduates, three M.D./Ph.D. recipients and three M.D./MBA recipients. Other graduates include:

School of Medicine student Ryan Lang, center, is surrounded by family and friends outside Langford Auditorium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Doctor of Audiology — 11.
Doctor of Medical Physics — 4.
Master of Science in Medical Physics — 2.
Master of Education of the Deaf — 2.
Master of Science (Speech Language Pathology) — 29.
Master of Public Health — 14.
Master of Science in Clinical Investigation — 10.
Master of Laboratory Investigation — 1.

From left, Everett Gu, Amanda Harris and Laila Hassam-Malani get ready for the School of Medicine ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

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