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School of Medicine graduates ready to make positive impact

May. 16, 2019, 10:02 AM

Jacqueline Harris receives a lift from fellow School of Medicine graduates, from left, Nick Baddour, Majaliwa Mzombwe, Jessica Lindsay Burris, Nikhil Chavali and Megan Shroder.
Jacqueline Harris receives a lift from fellow School of Medicine graduates, from left, Nick Baddour, Majaliwa Mzombwe, Jessica Lindsay Burris, Nikhil Chavali and Megan Shroder. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Kathy Whitney

At commencement ceremonies for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine graduates last week, Dean Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, relinquished his usual role as commencement speaker and bestowed it to outgoing Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education, Bonnie Miller, MD, MMHC.

VUSM graduate Melissa Day beams as she heads to the main ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Miller, who is stepping down from her position next month, reflected on her own experiences as a medical student nearly 40 years ago as she delivered the speech to 193 graduates gathered in Langford Auditorium on May 10. She encouraged the class of 2019 to construct new paradigms when the old ones don’t work anymore.

“We must have the mental agility to simultaneously embrace the paradigm of the person and the paradigm of the community. Serving the needs of vulnerable individuals remains the heart and soul of medicine…Knowing what we know about social determinants, we should advocate for those policies and programs — public and private — that have the best chance of ensuring the equitable distribution of health.”

Miller received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her address.

The names of the graduates were read by Eli Zimmerman, MD, assistant professor of Neurology and recipient of this year’s Shovel Award for excellence in teaching.

From left, School of Medicine graduates Nick Kuhl, Hannah Phelps, Daniel Hong, Pranav Santapuram and Justin Smith at the main ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The breakdown of the 2019 VUSM graduating class by degrees:

  • 12 Doctor of Audiology;
  • four Doctor of Medical Physics;
  • 100 Doctor of Medicine, including students who earned a dual degree — 14 Doctor of Philosophy, two Master of Business Administration, two Master of Public Health, and two Master of Education;
  • three Master of Education of the Deaf;
  • three Master of Laboratory Investigation;
  • 31 Master of Public Health including two dual degrees with Master of Education;
  • 10 Master of Science in Clinical Investigation;
  • one Master of Science in Medical Physics;
  • 23 Master of Science (Speech Language Pathology); and
  • six Master of Science (Applied Clinical Informatics)

For graduate Joseph Starnes, medical school provided more than just a world-class education.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, presented the VUSM Founder’s Medal to Jessica Lindsay Burris. (photo by Joe Howell)

“The support, mentorship and opportunities I have had at VUSM have been better than I could have ever imagined. I also happened to have met my future wife (Lauren Slesur) in first-year Physical Diagnosis class, so saying it’s been an amazing time would be an understatement,” he said. Starnes and Slesur will be staying at VUMC for their pediatric residencies.

Earlier in the day, Jessica Lindsay Burris was named Founder’s Medalist for the School of Medicine at the campus-wide Commencement ceremony. Burris has long-standing interests in patient empowerment in clinical settings, patient engagement in the research process and medical ethics. During her time at Vanderbilt, she played a key role in the development, governance, and maintenance of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) Patient-Powered Research Network, a research framework featuring a patient portal for 15,400 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She did so while dealing with her own chronic illness.

VUSM graduate Chike Abana and his family were all smiles following the ceremony in Langford Auditorium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Burris is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha and the Gold Humanism Honor Society. She will be pursuing a career in psychiatry at Yale University.

To see a video of the ceremony, click here.

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