UCSF Celebrates Commencement 2010

Graduating medical student Heather Bennett smiles after being selected by her classmates to receive the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award for representing the qualities of a true physician.

In annual rites of passage symbolizing academic triumph, UCSF students in the Graduate Division, the School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy celebrated commencements with family and friends in separate ceremonies recently.

The major milestone signifies a victory for students who faced stiff competition getting admitted to UCSF and now will embark on their journey as new doctors of medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and philosophy as well as other careers in life sciences.

Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, made the rounds at graduation festivities and delivered her first commencement address ever to the graduates of the School of Pharmacy on May 8.

Watch the chancellor’s commencement speech
on YouTube:

UCSF School of Pharmacy Commencement Address

Speaking at a full house at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Desmond-Hellmann drew on her hopes for the graduates, punctuated by pivotal moments from her own career. From researching HIV as a UCSF faculty member in Uganda to bringing life-saving cancer treatments to patients, the chancellor shared personal wisdom and practical advice for a life dedicated to alleviating human pain and suffering.

UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann laughs with Sam Hawgood, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, and Ezekiel Emanuel, the head of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, who was the commencement speaker at the medical school graduation.

Desmond-Hellmann closed her talk to the pharmacy graduates by sharing lessons learned from her father, who attended the event, and the values he instilled in her as a youngster when they would work together in his pharmacy. 

At the pharmacy commencement, Jeff Lansman, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, received the J.M. Long Foundation Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, dean of the pharmacy school, presented the Bowl of Hygeia Award, the highest honor given to a graduating student, to Megan McCurdy. First awarded in 1966, this honor is bestowed upon a student by fellow classmates and the faculty to the individual who best exemplifies the qualities most desirable in a pharmacist in action, thought, and attitude.

During the Graduate Division ceremony in the William J. Rutter Center at UCSF Mission Bay on May 7, US Congresswoman Jackie Speier delivered the commencement speech.

US Congresswoman Jackie Speier delivers the commencement speech at Graduate Division ceremony at the UCSF Mission Bay on May 7.

“Now I stand before a group of new graduates poised to make the world a better place to live,” Speier said. “Let me tell you, I’m glad I’m here…you are a breath of fresh air…you are the investment that this nation, this world of ours needs…you are the bright future.”

Speier, who also shared her life’s lessons, offered sage advice about choosing a career path that benefits humanity. “You will be wooed by corporate America. Remember, you get to choose. Look for some signs. Does the company have a green conscience? Is its altruism inherent in the development process, or is corporate giving restricted to periods of extreme profit? Is there obvious attention paid to long-term growth and development, or is the emphasis on a rush to the patent office? And, will you be allowed to help shape the corporate personality?”

A graduate shows her elation at the Graduate Division ceremony.

At the School of Medicine commencement at Davies Symphony Hall on May 14, Heather Bennett received the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award. Each year, the cane is presented to a senior medical student who has been selected by classmates as being the most representative of a true physician.

Tradition deems that the cane is presented by someone who received it in the past. This year, the award was presented by Homer Boushey, MD, a graduate of the UCSF School of Medicine and president of the Gold-Headed Cane Society. He is a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Allergy/Immunology.

Prominent bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, the head of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health and a special advisor for health policy to the White House, delivered the commencement speech.

Kelly Knight received her PhD in medical anthropology with her children, Annika Kral, 7, and son Nathaniel Kral, 10.

Known to be an outspoken advocate for health care reform, Emanuel urged the 154 new doctors to “tackle the big problems,” to “be revolutionaries” and to “turn the medical hierarchy on its head.” He expressed his conviction that medicine and the delivery of health care is about to “change at warp speed” and advised the graduates to “buckle up your seat belts!”

Read the full commencement story on the School of Medicine website.

The schools of dentistry and nursing will celebrate commencements in June.

School of Medicine photos by Elisabeth Fall/fallfoto.com

Graduate Division photos by Susan Merrell

Lisa Cisneros, Sarah Paris and Nicole Pagano contributed to this report.