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Record number of Ph.D.'s awarded at Class Day 2003

Although cloudy skies threatened DMS's Class Day celebration on June 7, attendees had many reasons to remain in bright spirits. DMS awarded not only a record number of Ph.D.'s—22— in the biomedical sciences, but the School's first master's of public health (M.P.H.) degrees.

Acting Dean Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., opened the ceremony by reminding graduates that family and friends had helped them get to that point. He then turned the lectern over to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., who started by encouraging students to serve their country if given the chance and "to set lofty goals and make a difference in your life and [for] those around you."

Quality of life: Satcher devoted most of his speech to delineating the goals of the Healthy People 2010 campaign, emphasizing— in light of the U.S.'s aging population— the importance of improving not only life's length but also its quality.

Behind them lay hours of lectures and labs, before them hours of toil—but for one day in June the DMS '03s put such concerns aside. With sunny spirits (albeit under skies that were threatening rain), 1 M.D. grad Agnes Graves and 2 Ph.D. grad Tom Kirn acquired their hard-earned velvet-trimmed doctoral hoods. Adding pomp to the ceremony were 3 a recitation of the Hippocratic Oath in its original Greek by Dartmouth College language professor John Rassias; 4 some words of wisdom from the event's keynote speaker, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher; and 5 bagpipe music played by Travis Matheney, a DMS '00, and his classmate James Feeney (not pictured). Among the graduates who reveled in the festivities, together with an assortment of friends and family members, were M.D. grads 6 Lisa Chong, 7 Amy Amend (right), and 8 Adrienne Williams (this year's winner of the Dean's Medal); 9 CECS grad Calvin Thomas (center); 10 Ph.D. grad My Nga Dang Helms (right), pictured with her faculty adviser, Aniko Naray- Fejes-Toth; and M.D. grads 11 Sanjoy Bhattacharya, 12 Derek Barclay, and 13 Nilton Medina. But there is always a bittersweet note to such occasions, too, for at their conclusion it is time for 14 good friends to say goodbye.
All photos: Flying Squirrel Graphics

The M.D. student speaker, Seth Crockett, echoed that sentiment as he reminded his classmates that "our time together, though brief, was dense." Drawing laughter from the audience, Crockett noted that during their time at DMS, the graduates "sat through an estimated 1,300 PowerPoint presentations, spent 30-plus Saturday nights studying in the library, . . . [and] completed over 1,200 residency interviews all over the country. To finance our medical education, collectively we've borrowed almost $6 million from various sources, to be paid back in 10 to 30 years, with interest."

He added that despite the rigors of medical school, 21 classmates got married (including four couples who met at DMS) and nine children were born to '03s. "We made friendships that will endure," Crockett said. "We've shared an indelible experience here that the passage of time will not erase."

The Ph.D. student speaker, Neema Ganju, who earned her doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology, echoed Crockett's quantitative perspective. She reminded her fellow Ph.D. graduates that "at this point, we've completed approximately 20 years of school—try telling a third-grader that you're in 20th grade, and his reaction will give you a good sense of the feat we've accomplished."

Hunch: She also praised the intimacy of Dartmouth and said she hoped her fellow graduates' paths "on this incredible journey cross again—I have a hunch that they will some day."

Then came the hooding of the 22 biomedical Ph.D.'s plus 32 M.P.H.'s, 60 M.D.'s, and 20 M.S.'s and three Ph.D.'s in the evaluative clinical sciences.

Next, Dmitrovsky and Associate Dean David Nierenberg, M.D., presented the top two student awards. Adrienne Williams earned the Dean's Medal as the M.D. with the best overall record of achievement, and Thomas Kirn was awarded the John W. Strohbehn Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research. All the student prizes presented during graduation week are listed in the box on the facing page.

Nierenberg also noted the conclusion of Dmitrovsky's service as acting dean, joking that although he hadn't remedied DMS's chronic parking shortage, he'd initiated a popular distinguished lecture series and overseen major curricular changes.

Honors: The students bestowed some awards, too—for basic science teaching to virologist Elmer Pfefferkorn, Ph.D., and for clinical teaching to surgeon Kenneth Burchard, M.D., as well as the Thomas P. Almy Housestaff Teaching Award to internal medicine resident Timothy Gardner, M.D. In addition, two of the College's honorary degree recipients this year came from the realm of biomedicine—Marilyn Hughes Gaston, M.D., the first African American woman to head the federal Bureau of Primary Health Care, and Rita Colwell, Ph.D., the first woman to head the National Science Foundation.

Class Day concluded with renowned Dartmouth language professor John Rassias chanting the Hippocratic Oath in Greek. Then Dmitrovsky led the 2003 M.D. graduates—and all physicians present—in reciting a translation of it. As the Vermont Brass Quintet struck up the recessional, the graduates had just enough time to make it into the reception tent before the clouds offered up their first raindrops of the day.

Katrina Mitchell

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