The Health Center’s 42nd commencement ceremony held today at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford recognized 73 graduates from the School of Medicine, 35 from the School of Dental Medicine and 70 from the Graduate School.
The commencement address guest speaker was Dr. Ferid Murad, a physician, pharmacologist, professor and researcher who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1998.
During his speech, Murad told the audience that “I knew at the age of 10 that I was going to become a doctor.” His teacher at the time asked students to write an essay describing their top three career choices. His choices were physician, teacher and pharmacist. Murad has accomplished all three – a board-certified physician and internist doing both basic and clinical research with considerable teaching in medicine and pharmacology, along with earning a Ph.D. in pharmacology.
Murad was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work with nitric oxide and how it acts as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. The discovery not only contributed to a better understanding of how information is transmitted between cells, but also had a significant influence on cardiovascular medicine, leading to changes in treatment following a heart attack. His findings continue to make inroads into cancer and arthritis and other human diseases.
Murad urged the students to work hard and not to worry if it takes a little more time and training to achieve their goals because it will be worth it. “When you finish you may ask yourself how can I pay back? How can you give something back? I like to say, how can you leave a big footprint?”
During the ceremony, Murad was awarded with a Doctor of Science honorary degree.
Also during the ceremony, the Health Center’s Board of Directors presented its Faculty Recognition Award to Mark Litt, professor in the UConn School of Dental Medicine’s Division of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health, who also holds a joint appointment as a professor in the UConn School of Medicine’s Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology. The award honors a faculty member for “outstanding academic and clinical accomplishments and sustained excellence of the highest order in professional endeavors.”
Litt is credited with being an internationally recognized leader in the study of the cognitive, behavioral and affective processes that lead to changes in behavior in areas such as substance abuse, chronic pain and anxiety control.
Three students were chosen by their classmates as commencement speakers. Arija Weddle represented the School of Medicine; Erick Navok spoke on behalf of the School of Dental Medicine; and Kareem Mohni represented the Graduate School students.
Dr. Frank Torti, executive vice president for health affairs and medical school dean, told the students, “Medicine is not a job. Dentistry is not a job. These are professions, these are callings. And there are many forces in health care that will argue otherwise. And you need to resist that. You need to resist that by showing that compassion can not be scheduled in 15-minute intervals. That intellectual curiousity and intensity are lifelong attributes of great physicians. These can not be taken away from you. It is the gift we can give.”