May 20, 2005

Graduation 2005: New M.D.s ready to shine

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Jennifer Cannon received her medical school diploma from her grandfather, Richard Cannon II, M.D., a 1943 graduate of VUSM and her father, Richard Cannon III, M.D., a 1976 graduate of VUSM.
photo by Dana Johnson

Graduation 2005: New M.D.s ready to shine

As the 90 members of the Vanderbilt School of Medical Class of 2004 made their way across the stage in Langford Auditorium last Friday, it was a walk that signified the end of a four-year journey through medical school and the beginning of a career as Vanderbilt-educated physicians.

“Just four years ago, this student body brought their intellect, their talents, their aspirations, and their lifetime of accomplishment to this school in the hope that they could become doctors of medicine,” said Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor of Health Affairs. “I am proud that we helped transform these extraordinary students into thoughtful and compassionate doctors, into scientists with critical and inquisitive minds, into lifelong learners and seekers and into the fine people you always envisioned they would be.”

Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, addressed the students. “Four years ago, I know you asked yourselves, 'Can I do this?' Not because you wondered if you could learn all the material, but because you understood the responsibilities facing you as a physician and you wanted to be able to do the very, very best for your patients. Well those questions have been answered and you should take great pride not only in what you have learned, but the people you have become as part of this remarkable process.”

Gabbe also said that the class would have a special place in his heart, as it was his first class to see all the way through medical school as dean.

For the students in the Class of 2005, the journey started when they made the decision to attend Vanderbilt.

“I might have chosen Vanderbilt by its academic reputation alone, but having had family members go through medical school here before me made it very special,” said Jennifer Cannon.

“I remember when things got rough, going to the third floor of Light Hall and finding the pictures of my dad and grandfather in their respective class composites. I always felt grounded and reassured, ready to persevere in whatever challenge I was facing.”

Cannon received her diploma from her grandfather, Richard Overton Cannon II, M.D., and her father, Richard Overton Cannon III, M.D. VUSM grants a one-day visiting faculty appointment to a family member with a medical degree, so that they can present their loved one with a diploma.

Cannon, who earned her undergraduate degree at Brown University, will do her residency at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis.

Lola Blackwell also had a family connection with Vanderbilt: her great-grandfather, John Youmans, M.D., once served as dean of the Medical School.

“This didn't necessarily affect my decision to come here, but once I was here, it was great to meet former students and hear about what it was like to train under him,” Blackwell said. “I chose Vanderbilt for a number of reasons; I felt like this was a place that really prized each individual student and worked to meet their needs.”

Blackwell, who completed her undergraduate education at Stanford, came to Vanderbilt as a Canby Robinson Scholar. She will be staying at Vanderbilt for her residency in Neurosurgery, and looks forward to continuing her horse riding career, as well as a wedding next May to classmate Doug Adkisson. Blackwell said she will always remember the kindness of the Vanderbilt community when she thinks back on her medical education.

“My mom was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer during my second year,” Blackwell said. “She was treated at Vanderbilt until her death last spring, and we could not have asked for more from the people involved in her care. The school's faculty and my classmates offered me incredible support.”

Lesley French will also be staying at Vanderbilt for her residency in Otolaryngology. Class president for both the first year and the final year of her medical education, French, who earned her B.A. at Yale University, said she couldn't imagine a better fit than Vanderbilt.

“I had heard the student body was very happy, and that satisfaction was a big drive for me to come here,” French said. “I have always felt like as students we are a part of a larger community, and I am excited to be able to remain here for my residency, and continue to be a part of that community.”

The Class of 2005 chose John L. Tarpley, M.D., professor of Surgery, to lead the reading of the oath, and Joyce E. Johnson, M.D., associate professor of Pathology, to confer the academic hoods, along with Jacobson.

Scott M. Rodgers, M.D., assistant dean for Medical Student Affairs, read the names of the graduates in place of the late R. Michael Rodriguez, M.D., who had been chosen by the students, but died early this year. Gabbe and Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, presented the diplomas.