Graduates Bestowed with a Backstage Pass to Life
The day was warm and the excitement ran high as 167 medical students received their diplomas at the Feinberg School’s Graduation Convocation on May 14 at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom. This graduation held special importance as it marked the school’s sesquicentennial year.
Proud parents, friends, and relatives gathered to snap photos, give pats on the back, and send out a few enthusiastic shouts as the students processed into the ballroom. Feinberg School Dean Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, and Northwestern University President Henry Bienen conferred the degrees and offered special congratulations to the 150th graduating class on their accomplishments. “Today you join the world’s most respected and distinguished profession,” said Dean Jameson. “You will find that your patients now refer to you as doctor, even though some of them could be your grandparents. They trust you with their most precious possession—their health. Northwestern has prepared you well for this next chapter.”
Class president Josephine Ni presented faculty member James J. Paparello, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology, with the 2009 George H. Joost Award for teaching excellence, noting his unintimidating nature and ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms.
Keynote speaker James R. Webster Jr., MD ’56, told graduates that they have the best jobs in town with a degree that offers them “a backstage pass to life with a priceless opportunity to interact with human beings at the most difficult and delicate times of their lives, including literally life and death.” He encouraged them to be agents of change whether it be in solving the problems of the national health care system or affecting the “behavioral choices that account for how long and how well people live.”
Dr. Webster further encouraged the students to appreciate those who have helped them achieve their goal and to approach the future with the same altruism and sense of inquiry that attracted them to the profession. Finally, calling the graduates, the “keepers of the flame,” he advised them to enjoy their new profession wherever it leads them, noting that they will receive more than they will give in terms of service. “The way to assure that this happens is simply for you to give,” he said.
Delivering a memorable senior class message was Nafis Ahmed, MD ’09, of Springfield, Virginia, who addressed the group with an electric guitar strapped over his chest to make the point that although he may look like a musician, he’s never played the guitar in his life.
“…And that’s kind of how I feel about starting intern year,” he told the chuckling audience. “Sure we’ve studied the chords, we’ve practiced the lyrics, we’ve even rehearsed with the equipment dozens of times, but in a few short weeks from now, it’s going to feel like we’re performing for the very first time,” he added. He encouraged the group to take heart, though, knowing that they follow in the footsteps of the thousands of graduates before them, who feared their first day but went on to greatness. Finally, Dr. Ahmed asked his classmates to stand, turn, and applaud their “supporting crew” of family, friends, and teachers for making them the “rock stars of the class of 2009.”
After processing out of the ballroom, the class, as is tradition, gathered together with Dean Jameson to raise a champagne toast to the end of medical school and the beginning of their bright futures.