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Celebrating Commencement 2011: UCSF Chancellor Advises Graduates to "Seize the Day"

By Lisa Cisneros

In celebration of commencement 2011, UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, congratulates graduates of UCSF, offering them words of advice as they embark on a new chapter in their life.

“For me what commencement means is that the world is going to have an incredibly well trained group of our trainees who are going to make a difference,” Desmond-Hellmann says. “Our graduates are setting policy, are changing health sciences, and are making discoveries that change the world and I’m really proud of that. This is a huge contribution that UCSF makes.”

Desmond-Hellmann delivers her special message in a video now posted on YouTube.

“It’s graduation time, and after a lot of hard work, the first piece of advice is savor the moment,” the chancellor says. “Enjoy the success, and the kudos, and the feedback, and your family’s love, and your colleagues’ appreciation. It’s a great time to pause and feel really good about accomplishing something that very few people do in their lives, which is graduating from a top-notch place successfully. Seize the day.”

Ranking Among Best in US

This year, UCSF graduates 800 students from its schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, as well as its graduate program. UCSF’s four professional schools and its graduate program rank among the best nationwide, according to US News & World Report. The schools held four separate commencement ceremonies, beginning with the School of Medicine on May 16 and concluding with the School of Dentistry on June 11. The chancellor’s message – which highlights what makes UCSF great – is to all graduates, as well as the broader UCSF community.

UCSF Chancellor talks with students

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, talks with students after taping a video celebrating this year's commencement.

Desmond-Hellmann graduated from the University of Nevada’s medical school and served her residency at UCSF – her first choice. She returned to UCSF following a much heralded career as an oncologist and biotechnology leader. 

“Having trained here and been a faculty member here, I am so touched by the mission of UCSF,” she says. “That’s why I came as chancellor. It’s been thrilling for me to see how UCSF has grown, and has not just maintained the excellence that I benefitted from as a trainee, but has improved and enhanced its excellence.”

The chancellor advises graduates to stay true to their values, embody professionalism and exhibit the highest levels of integrity as they go forth as UCSF ambassadors. She urges them to use their skills and interdisciplinary approach to health care as a compass to give back to the community. “The unique strength of UCSF is combining intellect and a passion for public service. And that is who I want us to be.”

Lawrence Chyall, who is graduating with a Master of Science degree from the UCSF School of Nursing, says that philosophy has been reinforced throughout his studies.

“The big thing has been learning from all different disciplines – I’ve made relationships with students from all the schools here,” he says, adding that he expects to draw on these relationships for the rest of his career.

UCSF encourages “that combination of being the best that you can be intellectually, but also making service an integral part of your practice. We see that from all faculty – that’s something that’s engrained in us from day one – that not only to recognize that we’re privileged to be here, and to think of creative ways that we can use that to make an impact in our community here in San Francisco and then extending on out through the rest of the country and the world,” Chyall says.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Photo by Susan Merrell