The 2008 Commencement Ceremony

The commencement ceremony for the College of Medicine class of 2008 overflowed with emotion and enthusiasm as 114 men and women received their medical degrees and completed the first chapter of their medical careers Saturday, May 17.

Each speaker who took the podium provided an inspirational message for the graduating students and their family members, faculty and friends who filled the Phillips Performing Arts Center. It quickly became obvious that one individual would dominate the theme of the day. The subject of this year’s graduation was undeniably the patient.

“I ask you now, when you are the doctors and we are the patients, will you look at us through expert eyes with knowledge and skill, or will you still be able to see us through the world of a patient,” commencement speaker Dr. Darrell Kirch asked the graduates. “If we all look at the world through the eyes of a patient, we will begin to understand how lost so many people feel in our health-care system, and we will feel a sense of urgency about doing something to fix what is wrong with the system.”

Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, did not intend to deflate the mood on what was a glorious day. His intention was to bring to the forefront the ideals and the passion that characterized the students’ first days of medical school.

“That idealism was something you felt at your core,” Kirch continued. “It was not idol idealism. We all have it in our reach.”

Dr. James Lynch, professor of medicine and this year’s recipient of the Hippocratic Award, inspired the graduates with his message of maintaining humanism while facing the challenges of modern medicine. The patient again was front and center in his talk.

“I am inspired every day by my patients,” said Lynch, a professor of hematology oncology. “They are examples of great strength and hope, who, while facing their own death, often are concerned with how others are doing.”

Dr. Robert Watson, former senior associate dean for medical educational affairs, remarked that physicians today must respect their “moral compass.”

“We need to renew our social contract with our patients and with society,” said Watson, who received a special presentation from the class of 2008 in honor of his commitment to UF medical education and its students for the last 17 years. “The essence of the patient-physician relationship is its moral center, not the marketplace. We can’t lose our moral compass; we can’t lose our true North.”

Kurt Scherer, the 2008 Student Hippocratic Award recipient, addressed his classmates and thanked those in audience who provided the “keystones of our education.”

“A keystone is the central wedge-shaped stone in an arch,” he said. “It both holds and locks all the other stones in place and is the uppermost and last set stone of each arch.”

The keystones for the class included Lynch, Watson, Sigurd Normann, M.D., Ph.D., basic science teacher of the year; Patricia Abbitt, M.D., clinical science teacher of the year; Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs; Lynn Romrell, Ph.D., former associate dean for educational affairs; and UF COM alumni. Scherer mentioned the families, parents and spouses last.

“We thank our spouses for their sacrifice, our parents for their love and support, and our other relatives for their guidance,” Scherer said. “With the family as a keystone, our arch is complete.

“Those who served as keystones in our education were the same people who have ‘forgotten themselves and gone to work,’” Scherer concluded. “May we likewise affect the physicians and patients of tomorrow by forgetting ourselves in this work and becoming keystones in their lives.”