May 19, 2000

Grand Finale: ‘Dean of deans’ graduates last class of distinguished career

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VUSM’s class of 2000 gave Dean John Chapman a group hug following the school’s graduation ceremony at Langford Auditorium. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Grand Finale: 'Dean of deans' graduates last class of distinguished career

Dean John Chapman acknowledged the standing ovation he received upon his introduction at Langford Auditorium. This year’s class was the last to receive its degrees from Chapman. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Dean John Chapman acknowledged the standing ovation he received upon his introduction at Langford Auditorium. This year’s class was the last to receive its degrees from Chapman. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Shortly after noon last Friday at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's program of recognition, Dean John E. Chapman and Dr. Charles Jackson Wray made Vanderbilt history.

Wray became the 3,317th — and last — medical student to be graduated by Chapman during his quarter of a century as the school's leader. Chapman announced last year that he will leave his post as dean to assume the post of associate vice chancellor for Medical Alumni Affairs once a new dean is named to fill his shoes.

And what a big pair of shoes they are.

The figures alone are staggering. Sixty-seven percent of all living VUSM graduates have received their degrees from Chapman since he became dean in 1975. As he completes his 25th year, the average tenure of a medical school dean at the other 124 medical schools in the nation is five years.

"You don't have to look very far to find a model of commitment in medical education," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, as he opened the program of recognition. "Dean John Chapman is one of the nation's most revered educators. He is the dean of deans. No acting dean has served as long and certainly none has served as well. His commitment to teaching is firm. It's his focus, his passion, his life's work."

Jacobson introduced Chapman to the capacity crowd at Langford Auditorium as the "patron saint of medical students everywhere."

During the ceremony at Langford Auditorium, Chapman was recognized by a lengthy standing ovation from the Class of 2000, VUSM faculty and those attending the ceremony. The roar of the applause refused to subside and, after a time, the legendarily stoic dean finally sat down. When he did, the capacity crowd clapped even more loudly.

After the ovation, Chapman told the crowd he was "deeply appreciative" of their recognition.

"I've done nothing except what needs to be done for education, student affairs and administration," he said.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with medical education at Vanderbilt knows he's done far more than that.

The 109 members of the Class of 2000 were the medical school's largest. Others participating in the ceremony were Dr. Corey M. Slovis, professor of Emergency Medicine and recipient of the 2000 Shovel Award for excellence in teaching, Dr. Bonnie Miller, associate dean for Medical Students, Dr. Deborah C. German, senior associate dean for Medical Education, and Dr. Robert D. Collins, professor of Pathology.

The students chose Collins to lead them in reciting the Hippocratic Oath at the closing of the ceremony.

For the new physicians, it's both an end and a beginning, as they move on to the next phase of their medical education, their residencies.

Eileen Dauer was chosen to receive this year's Founder's Medal, given at the university commencement for first honors in each graduating class. She is heading to the Mayo Clinic for a residency in Otolaryngology.

Dauer said receiving the Founder's Medal is even more special because of the quality of her classmates.

"I have so many talented classmates so when I think about the award in the context of knowing these people in my class, it makes it even more of an honor."

Dauer said she owes "at least half" of her medal to her husband, Brian, who has already moved to Minnesota where he is working for the state legislature.

"He's incredible. I was able to study, like I needed to, and he cleaned and cooked for me. Being married and attending medical school was not difficult for me because of how great my husband is."

The mixture of marriage and medical school was also a familiar combination for Paul and Pamela Kingma, M.D./Ph.D. graduates who are both heading to the University of Cincinnati Hospital for residencies in pediatrics.

"It's going to be strange for us to live somewhere else since we've spent our entire married life, eight years, in Nashville," Pamela said.

Commencement was a family occasion of a different sort for Josh Thomas. He followed in the footsteps of his sister, Melissa, a 1991 M.D./Ph.D. graduate and brother, Justin, a 1998 M.D. graduate. Both siblings, as well as other family members, attended last week's ceremony.

"I certainly had some exposure to the university because of my siblings and I was definitely looking for a school in the southeast and I was impressed by Vanderbilt's reputation. It has the most student-centered faculty of any medical school I've ever heard of," he said.

"That's more important to me than a U.S. News and World Report ranking."