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Tufts Public Health

A Time to Celebrate Achievement

“I hope that you will approach the opportunities and challenges ahead of you with the same enthusiasm, insight, compassion, and innovation that you have demonstrated during your time at Tufts,” Anthony Monaco told graduates. Photo collage: Alonso Nichols
Sunday, May 17, 2020

Even without its virtual format, the 128th commencement ceremony of the Tufts University School of Medicine was a time of firsts. Interim Dean Peter Bates said he believed this to be the largest and most diverse class of MDs that Tufts has produced. It was also the first since World War II to graduate early. Degrees were officially conferred on April 24, to give the new physicians the ability to join the fight against the coronavirus.

As the graduates prepared to say the Hippocratic oath, Bates said that “at a time of near chaos in health care,” the oath can serve as a touchstone for understanding the crisis and the graduates’ role in ending it.

“The oath confirms that we are members of a profession with responsibility for all human beings,” he said, “and that ours is a calling that can provide great satisfaction and joy.”

Class president Caitlin Fai acknowledged in her address that they would soon be joining the front lines. “But jumping in like this is nothing new for our class, if you think about everything we’ve done together,” she said. She extolled their creation of community service groups that work with Latino women and the homeless and praised their activism through efforts such as White Coats for Black Lives and White Coats Against Gun Violence.

At a separate virtual ceremony for the Public Health and Professional Degree Programs, JudyAnn Bigby, former secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for Massachusetts, said that the pandemic has revealed that the United States is too focused on medical care rather than public health.

Any gains made in treating diseases like cancer and heart disease, she said, are overwhelmed by the lives lost too soon from poverty and other social conditions. “The disproportionate rate of death from COVID19 among people of color and poor people highlights the failure of the medical system to integrate with public health systems as a way to mediate people’s vulnerabilities,” she said.

This excerpt is from the Tufts Now article: A Time to Celebrate Achievement