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Challenges, opportunities ahead for VUSM graduates

May. 18, 2017, 8:33 AM

The School of Medicine class of 2017 poses for a group photo on the Medical Center plaza following last Friday’s Commencement exercises. (photo by Anne Rayner)

In his message to the class of 2017 at Commencement last Friday, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), spoke of challenges caused by the rapid pace of change in health care and eroding public trust in the U.S. health care system.

Balser said that as health care delivery continues to change, this year’s graduates should think about health care differently and consider the advantages of collaborating closely with other groups of health care providers who work alongside physicians, and in some cases instead of them, to counteract the predicted shortfall of 12.9 million health care workers by the year 2035.

Posing for a photo following the School of Medicine ceremony are, from left, Kelly Wu, Bonnie Miller, M.D., Justiss Kallos and Sanah Ladhani. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“Just riding the bicycle harder and harder won’t get us there,” Balser said.

He also said that changes in the way health care is provided will fundamentally challenge the trust that those in the medical profession have spent centuries building.

Samantha Gridley Haley is this year’s School of Medicine Founder’s Medalist. (photo by Joe Howell)

“It goes back millennia. What we all learned in medical school and residency was to be completely responsible. ‘Trust me. I’ll take care of you,’” he said. “What we’re saying now is that approach doesn’t quite work anymore. It doesn’t scale to the problem in front of us — either to the volume of patients or the economics of what it costs to train us. So if we don’t adapt — meaning if we don’t find a way to reshape the trust compact we have with the public — in a way that moves their trust to include a team of care providers, we’ll be voting with our feet to fail millions in order to preserve the status quo,” Balser told the graduates whose families and friends filled Langford Auditorium on May 13.

“Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has been an amazing place to fulfill my dream of becoming a physician,” said graduate Maria de Lourdes Sturchler, M.D., who began medical school at age 29.

“In elementary school, I wrote that when I grew up I wanted to be a doctor, a teacher and a scientist. After a first career in middle- and high-school mathematics education and a research internship at Scripps Florida, I am finally fortunate enough to call myself a doctor thanks to the support of my family, friends and mentors, as well as the incredible faculty of VUSM,” she said.

Robert Tauscher, second from left, gets a lift from fellow School of Medicine graduates Adil Faqih, left, Justine Kim and Nishant Ganesh Kumar. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“My path to this point was long and circuitous, but I believe that it has served to make me a more compassionate and grateful physician, and it has also taught me the immense value of mentors and the impact that we can all have on each other’s journeys through life.” She will serve an emergency medicine residency at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California.

Catherine Meador, M.D., Ph.D., who joined the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in the summer of 2010, said the past seven years have been some of the most formative and enjoyable in her life. In between years of medical school she completed her Ph.D. in the laboratory of William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., with a co-mentorship from Christine Lovly, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Cancer Biology.

“My experiences with clinical medicine and laboratory science during my training have affirmed my desire to pursue a career as a physician scientist,” she said. “Most importantly, I have been lucky enough along the way to have incredible mentors who have supported, challenged and encouraged me in my personal growth and the pursuit of my professional goals.”

School of Medicine graduate Catherine Meador with her father, Keith Meador, M.D., MPH, director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Meador will begin an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in June.

The breakdown of the 2017 VUSM graduating class by degrees: eight Doctor of Audiology; five Doctor of Medical Physics; 98 Doctor of Medicine (10 also Doctor of Philosophy, five also Master of Business Administration, one also Master of Education, two also Master of Public Health, one also Master of Theological Studies); four Master of Education of the Deaf; four Master of Laboratory Investigation; 20 Master of Public Health (one also Master of Arts); 15 Master of Science in Clinical Investigation; five Master of Science in Medical Physics; and 20 Master of Science Speech Language Pathology.

To watch a video of this year’s Vanderbilt University School of Medicine commencement ceremony please go here.

School of Medicine graduate Kelly Harms holds up the giant cutout of her photo brought by her mother, Pam Harms. (photo by Anne Rayner)

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