Just as 49 classes did before them, the 130 members of the UF College of Medicine class of 2010 received their degrees and took the Hippocratic Oath as new medical doctors in the college’s 50th commencement ceremony held Saturday, May 22.
This year’s milestone graduation overflowed with emotion and enthusiasm as six members from the college’s first class led the procession into the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and sat onstage to help celebrate the college’s 50th graduating class.
“It is very special for us to be here for this wonderful occasion,” said Dr. Jean Bennett, of the class of 1960. “It’s nice to see old friends and to think back to our own graduation 50 years ago.”
In addition to Bennett, her 1960 classmates Drs. H. James Free, Steve Gilman, Thomas Noto, Charles Ozaki and B.J. Stalnaker served as the ceremony’s honorary marshals.
Dr. Michael Good, dean of the College of Medicine, led the ceremony by introducing UF President Bernie Machen, who later shook hands with each new medical graduate.
“I applaud your accomplishment of completing one of most difficult and demanding courses of study in higher education,” Machen told the class. “We recognize you, we celebrate your achievement, and we acknowledge that your record here foreshadows even greater achievement in your professional medical careers to come.”
Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for Health Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services, was the commencement speaker. He advised the new physicians to commit themselves to self-improvement.
“Most of what you have learned in the last four years will be obsolete by the end of your career,” he said. “You must relearn the art of medicine over and over again.”
Blumenthal was appointed by President Barack Obama to move the nation toward electronic medical records under the federal health care reform law, with a target date of 2014.
“Every doctor knows that she is only as good as the information she has about her patient,” he said. “Information is the lifeblood of medicine. Your generation has the power to transform medicine by demanding that you have modern, technologically advanced methods for recording that information.
“It is past time for the United States to enter the electronic information age, and you can change medicine for the better,” he concluded.
Other speakers included Dr. Robert Hatch, 2010 Hippocratic Award recipient; Andrew Miller, 2010 Student Hippocratic Award recipient; and Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a Gainesville surgeon and president of the UF Medical Alumni Board of Directors, who asked the class a familiar question.
“When did you become a Gator?” he began. “In other words, when did you first realize that what happened here at UF made a profound impact on your life?”
Rosenberg said he has a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts and the skills he received from the College of Medicine that allow him to care for his patients.
“You will make a significant difference in the lives of your patients,” he said. “But if you are lucky, your patients will make a significant difference in your life. Then you will truly be a Gator.”
Two physicians received a UF Distinguished Achievement Award, Dr. James P. Gills Jr., and Dr. George Singleton.
Gills, an internationally renowned ophthalmologist and philanthropist, has built a career around exceptional care and treatment for those with compromised vision. He founded St. Luke’s Cataract and Laser Institute in Tarpon Springs, where he practices, and he revolutionized cataract surgery through the use of intraocular lenses and was the first ophthalmologist in the country to dedicate his practice exclusively to this procedure.
“However, what defines Dr. Gills in a much more distinct way is his care and generosity for those less fortunate,” the dean said when presenting the award. “Dr. Gills has traveled around the world, bringing the gift of sight to thousands of people in underdeveloped countries.”
Singleton is chair emeritus and founding member of the department of otolaryngology at the UF College of Medicine. He is credited with significantly expanding the number of department faculty and increasing the number of patients seeking clinic appointments. He has published dozens of articles for professional journals, authored numerous chapters for medical texts, and conducted, documented and presented breakthrough research on diseases and cancers of the ear, nose, throat and head and neck.
“Dr. Singleton has shared his amazing intellect, his deep wisdom, and his scholarly guidance with the University of Florida College of Medicine for five decades,” Good said. “He has also shared much more, through exceptional philanthropy for the department of otolaryngology that will provide resources to support research and program development well into the future.”
This year, four graduates received both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. They are Dr. David Bloom, Dr. Dawn Brooks, Dr. Lee Ferguson and Dr. Jared Silver. Three others were sworn in as medical officers in the Army, Navy and Air Force. They were Dr. Klaus Freeland, Dr. Scott Lawson and Dr. John Magulick.
The celebration then spilled outside the Performing Arts Center with graduates posing for photographs and sharing hugs and kisses with families and friends.
“This is a wonderful day,” said Dr. Jean Cook, a 1983 graduate of the College of Medicine, who had the opportunity to accompany her son, Christopher Cook Holden, across the stage and present him with his academic hood. “We are so proud and so glad he is staying home.”
Holden will begin a residency in orthopaedic surgery at UF.
Also celebrating outside was the Harrell family. Dr. Grant Harrell, the grandson of founding College of Medicine Dean Dr. George Harrell, received his medical degree and will start his residency in internal medicine at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. His sister, Dr. Heather Harrell, a clinical associate professor of internal medicine at UF, presented her bother with his academic hood.
“I regret that my grandfather didn’t know that Grant chose to enter medicine and will be practicing internal medicine just as he did,” she said.
George Harrell, who died in 1999, hooded Heather at her UF medical graduation in 1995. Heather Harrell wears her grandfather’s academic regalia each year to the commencement ceremonies.
“It meant so much to have my grandfather hood me when I graduated,” Heather Harrell said after the ceremony. “It was wonderful to continue the tradition and be there when Grant accepted his medical degree.”