Honorary degrees awarded to health care and community exemplars Darrel Kirch, Susan Coghlin Mailman and Richard Kennedy
UMass Medical School awarded 214 degrees, including three honorary degrees, at its 46th Commencement exercises on Sunday, June 2, under a tent on the Campus Green. Association of American Medical Colleges President Darrel G. Kirch delivered the keynote address to graduates of the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Graduate School of Nursing. Susan Coghlin Mailman, owner of Worcester's Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc., and Richard P. Kennedy, president of The Angel Fund for ALS Research, who is, himself, living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), joined Dr. Kirch in receiving honorary degrees.
Chancellor Michael F. Collins presided over the ceremony, presenting 118 Doctor of Medicine degrees; 3 Master of Science in clinical investigation degrees; 34 Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the biomedical sciences; eight MD/PhD degrees; and, in nursing, one post-master's certificate, three PhD degrees and 30 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees. Class of 2019 student speakers were Kiran Mullur, MD, for the School of Medicine; Jose Mercado-Matos, MD, PhD, for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and Cecily Kulsick, DNP, for the Graduate School of Nursing.
"It is with a sense of great joy that I stand before you this day as you embark on the next steps of the journey in your respective professions," Chancellor Collins said. "It has been dedicated accomplishment along a marvelous and ambitious path that brought you to this moment."
He encouraged them to take inspiration from the honorary degree recipients.
"Like Sue Mailman, may you experience the joy of the little good of serving your community,' he said. 'Like Richard Kennedy, may you experience the joy of little good of investing time and resources to others. Like Darrel Kirch, may your experience the joy of the little good of stewarding your profession."
As president and CEO of the AAMC since 2006, Kirch guides the premier not-for-profit association representing all LCME-accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada, nearly 400 teaching hospitals and health systems and 80 academic societies. A psychiatrist and clinical neuroscientist by training, Kirch began his career at the National Institute of Mental Health, and subsequently held leadership positions at the Medical College of Georgia and at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at The Pennsylvania State University, where he was senior vice president for health affairs, dean of the College of Medicine and CEO. In 2007, Kirch was elected to the National Academy of Medicine; he also has been named a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and honored with the Gold Humanism in Medicine Medal. Kirch speaks and publishes widely on the need for transformation in America’s health care system and how academic medicine can lead that change.
"Your friends and family members—the people filling this tent—shared your dream, supported you during the tough times, and celebrated your victories. Today, that shared dream becomes reality,” said Kirch. “You’re entering an exciting time. Our nation has the best medical science, the best trained doctors and nurse practitioners, the most sophisticated diagnostic tools, and the most innovative treatments in the world.
"Still, some aspects of our health care system should give us pause. We're long overdue to focus on creating better value in health care, containing costs and emphasizing prevention and better outcomes. I know some of you are thinking, 'Those are political problems. I didn't go to graduate school to get tied up in politics.' But today, you become health care professionals and scientists, and that means you take on an ethical obligation.
"I hope we all find the courage to make good on our ethical obligations. I hope we never lose the passion for creating the better, healthier society that made us choose our careers in the first place. Our professions need you! Our nation needs you!"