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Tufts Public Health

Using the Power of Public Health to Create a New Normal

Front of the Biomedical Research and Public Health building
Monday, May 24, 2021

The term “a new normal” has come to mean what life will be like once pandemic restrictions have eased. At the commencement ceremony for graduates of the Public Health and Professional Degree Programs at the School of Medicine, speakers envisioned something beyond business as usual, particularly when it comes to societal inequities.

“Once again and shamefully the burden of health and economic consequences of the pandemic are born disproportionately by those historically marginalized: people of color and the poor,” said Aviva Must, dean for Public Health and Professional Degree Programs. “The rollout of the vaccine again has laid bare the profound chasm of unequal and inequitable opportunities for health.”

She called on the graduates—who received degrees in public health, pain research education and policy, biomedical sciences, medical science, and, for the first time, health informatics and analytics—to use their Tufts education as workers and activists to “directly impact these formidable challenges.”

Roommates and classmates Sahar Tirmizi and Amanda Jung, who both received master of public health degrees, echoed those thoughts in their class address. This past year “has taught us that inequity is, in and of itself, a pre-existing condition,” Jung said.

“Do not let what is normal lend an excuse for complacency,” she said. “Let us get to work so that decades from now we can look around and say we left things better than we found them. The Class of 2021 will not be defined by what we lost, but rather how we respond.”

Tirmizi asked the graduates to memorialize the ways in which these times have revealed what truly matters—“the resilience of our cities, the well-being of our loved ones, and the sacrifices made by those who dedicate themselves to serving others.”

In his keynote speech, The Reverend Emmanuel Daphnis, MG00 (MPH), pastor of Restoration Community Church in Brockton, said that there is a charge to the leaders and future leaders of this generation, “a clarion call that screams from the mountaintops to the very space where you find yourself at this exact moment. It screams for the voiceless and the marginalized, it cries for the disenchanted and the disenfranchised: Might someone care enough to see me? Might someone care enough to give their life so that subsequent generations might live? Will you answer the call and walk in your fullest self?”

“Your voice as a public health practitioner,” he said, “sits right at the intersection of change for all people.”