Smiles, selfies, inspiring speeches and joyous shouts from the audience filled the 194th Commencement ceremonies of the Center City Campus of Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).
Over two days in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, some 1,350 students received their degrees from the Jefferson College of Health Professions, Jefferson College of Pharmacy, Jefferson College of Nursing, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences and Jefferson College of Population Health.
Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Jefferson and Jefferson Health, urged graduates to use the wisdom they’ve gained and help fix a broken healthcare system.
“I’m asking you to do the art of the impossible,” he said.
Mark L. Tykocinski, MD, provost and executive vice president of Jefferson and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College, commented on the special timing of this ceremony.
“The Class of 2018 is here during a truly historic phase of this 200-year-old institution: the Klasko era,” Dr. Tykocinski said. “You have witnessed first-hand the tripling of our clinical footprint through death-defying mergers and the out-of-the-box union of a health sciences university with one known for textiles, fashion, design and architecture.”
Similarly, he said graduates would not only practice their profession but “look to cross boundaries and innovate at the edges,” he said. “It takes guts to put yourself out there and to stick to your convictions.
Former 6ABC anchor Lisa Thomas-Laury, author of the memoir “On Camera and Off: When the News Is Good and When It’s Not,” received the honorary degree Doctor of Science during the Jefferson College of Health Professions and Jefferson College of Pharmacy Commencement ceremony on May 22. In 2001, Thomas-Laury developed a rare nerve disorder, which remained misdiagnosed for nearly two years.
Unfortunately, Thomas-Laury was ill and couldn’t attend the ceremony, but Richard Gozon, co-chair of the Jefferson Academic Board, shared some of her remarks.
“My illness taught me a lot—mainly we all have to be advocates for our own healthcare,” said Gozon on Thomas-Laury’s behalf. “But also that all patients and families deserve to be treated with compassion by their healthcare providers. It is essential to good medical care. Studies show that it results in improved quality of care, better health outcomes and lower medical costs.”
Following, Susan Wainwright, PhD, chair of the department of physical therapy in the Jefferson College of Health Professions, said this celebration didn’t merely mark a completion of studies.
“Putting the focus on getting your degree defines an endpoint,” she noted. “Today is a recognition of the many signposts that you will achieve along this trajectory of professional practice.”
In conferring the degrees, Rebecca Finley, PharmD, dean of the Jefferson College of Pharmacy, said the World Health Organization (WHO) and many consumer groups recognize pharmacists as the most accessible healthcare professionals, as well as one of the most honest, ethical and trusted professions, according to Gallup polls.
“Today’s pharmacy graduates are prepared to be highly effective members of the team, which ensures that all drug therapy is safe, effective, accessible and cost-effective,” she said.
During the afternoon ceremony, Madeline Naegle, PhD, CNS-PHM, BC, FAAN, professor emerita of New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and director of its WHO Collaborating Center in Geriatric Nursing Education, addressed graduates of the Jefferson College of Nursing.
“Exercise courage every day,” stressed Naegle, who received the honorary degree Doctor of Science. “Don’t save it for extreme situations. Speak up to medical and nursing errors.”
After Naegle’s speech, Ann Phalen, PhD, interim dean of the Jefferson College of Nursing, said nurses must provide a culture of caring and compassion.
“When you are with your patient, be with your patient,” she said. “Look at them. Touch them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Don’t just look at the machines and numbers and enter data.”
Dr. Klasko told the nursing graduates to be the change-makers.
“When you see something that doesn’t make sense, seems fragmented or not in the patient’s best interest, don’t be satisfied,” he said.
On May 23, renowned photographer Platon Antoniou and Michael Gold, former CEO of the Hawaii Medical Service Association, addressed graduates of the Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences, Jefferson College of Population Health and Sidney Kimmel Medical College. They both received the honorary degree Doctor of Science.
Platon, as he is known, has photographed more world leaders than any other photographer, including more than 30 Time magazine covers. In 2013, Platon founded the People’s Portfolio, a non-profit foundation dedicated to celebrating emerging leaders of human rights and civil rights around the world.
He shared stories of photographing the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Vladimir Putin, Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and others—and the lessons he has learned from working with such luminaries.
“Be optimists,” Platon said. “If you have faced challenge in your life, then that’s a good thing. It means you are tested for the battle ahead. And by the way, that battle out there is raging, and what we do as emerging leaders, is we roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Gerald Grunwald, PhD, dean of the Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences, told graduates to never forget to apply the lessons and skills they’ve learned while under the guidance of their teachers and research advisors.
“We charge you to remain lifelong learners, dedicated to furthering the progress of biomedical science—not only for its own rich intellectual rewards but to aid the continuing improvement of the human condition,” he said.
In his speech, David B. Nash, MD, MBA, founding dean of the Jefferson College of Population Health, asked graduates to dedicate themselves to “lift up the community, to give young persons hope, to reduce disparities, to reduce institutional racism, to make care safer, and to renew our commitment to a brighter tomorrow for our children and their children.”
Dr. Tykocinski said “embrace the unfamiliar” in his address to the medical doctoral candidates.
“Use it to better intuit the future and anticipate disruptive change, to appreciate scale and put yourselves in perspective within a much larger world around you, to imagine creative solutions by randomly walking through adjacent possibilities,” he said.
Earlier in the ceremony, David William and Esperanza Martinez Neu received Jefferson’s President’s Award from Dr. Klasko. Recognized as Philanthropists of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2016, they established the Neu Center for Supportive Medicine and Cancer Survivorship at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.
“To the esteemed Class of 2018, today is the beginning of your great and noble cause,” David Neu concluded. “You’ve earned the right to change and improve healthcare.”