Watch the full ceremony:
2020 MD Commencement ceremony
May 15, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic forced the first-ever cancellation of on-campus Commencement celebrations in May 2020. Instead, the MD program held virtual celebrations to honor the Class of 2020.
2020 Commencement video
Transcript of Dean’s Remarks
David H. Perlmutter, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs,
George and Carol Bauer Dean and Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor
I know this is not how you imagined your graduation. Over the course of all these years, the grueling days and night when you pushed yourself both physically and mentally beyond where you ever thought possible, you may have once or twice thought about this moment. You probably imagined walking across the stage in your regalia, your families and friends cheering you on, a moment full of pomp and circumstance, a recognition and a celebration of the most inconceivable hard work you put in at one of the world’s leading medical schools. I’m quite certain you did not expect to be sitting in your homes apart from your classmates hearing me speak to you from a screen.
If we had gathered as planned downtown in person, I would have talked about your unbelievable accomplishments, the leadership you have shown in spearheading the kinds of initiatives that have changed the landscape of our school: like your medical Spanish program, several of your wellness promoting programs and 500 Women in Medicine.
I would have surely mentioned your outstanding academic performance and the incredible success you’ve had in matching to our country’s top medical and surgical residency programs. Your dedication to serving your community was particularly evident in the last few weeks as you led or contributed to the school’s COVID 19 volunteer efforts.
I would have also offered and inspirational message, perhaps talking about how the role of physician and physician scientist asks that we draw from a deep inner well in order to serve others, often at our own expense, even in situations when that seems impossible. I would have talked about how it demands that we use careful analysis and logic, even when there are no right answers, no good answers, no established protocols or algorithms; that we look for solutions grounded in data and science, in spite those who would dismiss the careful study and rigorous standards on which our profession is built.
Speaking to you now from the ether rather than in person as I would have liked, it is clear that all of these qualities, all of what you are and what we hope you will continue to become, have taken the spotlight, at a time when challenges to science and a dismissal of facts have been woefully widespread. We now face a problem, a formidable virus that demands solutions grounded in data and scientific imagination and there is urgency. We now have a problem that attracts the attention of the entire world to those values that we have emphasized during your education and training here: the selflessness and sacrifice of the physician, our commitment to the sickest and most vulnerable, and the vital importance of basic biomedical research.
As you know, a special reverence for the scientific basis of medicine has been a trademark of Washington University for many decades. Now in our new reality all eyes are on physicians, and physician scientists, looking to us to provides solutions, from the diagnostic tests critical for public health, to therapeutic drugs and new vaccines. In many ways, it is the ultimate validation of what this medical school has always stood for.
As I have thought about the professional journey on which you are about to embark in the midsts of the historic coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 crisis, a passage from Albert Camus’s novel The Plague strikes me as so fitting. This famous novel follows a physician as he fights an outbreak of the bubonic plague ravaging his city. I know it is a subject now very close to home. This doctor, who is called on to provide medical care to those who have been stricken, to console families in their lowest moments, and also to help guide the community in containing the outbreak and preventing chaos is described with the following phrase:
“It was as if he was fighting against creation as he found it.”
Why do I think that description is something any physician can relate to? Why does that phrase resonate so deeply for me?
It is because our role is to confront the human condition as it is given to us, and then to use our intelligence, science and judgment to cajole it into sparing those who would be taken from us and to limit the harm it might do to others. Right now fighting against creation means using all of our expertise and all of our resources to contain a virus that has disrupted life as we know it and brought the world to its knees. But we know this is not just in the times of plagues. As physicians we are always in some ways fighting against creation. On our hospital wards, in our clinics and in our labs.
I want to say that again: As physicians, we are always in some ways fighting against creation.
We know that your clinical education has helped you to understand this deeply. We have watched how you have grown into the physicians you are now. Time and again you have looked at your world and figured out how to make it better, safer, more equitable. All of the qualities that we hope to cultivate in the next generation of doctors and scientist, you have them in spades.
Today as we officially welcome you into our ranks, we must acknowledge that we are sending you into a world full of unknowns. You are heading out into a more uncertain medical landscape than any previous class has had to encountered. This too, you are ready for.
I know you have experienced multiple cycles of grief over the last few weeks as it became clear that we would not be able to recognize you in the grand and public way we should should and that you so richly deserve. But you have been flexible and resilient and gracious. I know I speak on behalf of our entire faculty when I say that you have made us all proud and offered us renewed hope in the future of medicine at a time when we are so clearly in need of it. This graduation is not what any of us imagined or wanted for you.
And while it will be true that you graduated medical school during a time of great crisis, it will also always be true that you became doctors at a time when the value of physicians to society could not possibly be more profound. The eyes of the world are on our hospitals and on our labs, and they will soon be on you as well. How fortunate we are that you are the future of medicine and medical science. There are challenges ahead, and you are ready for them.
Congratulations Washington University Class of 2020, from our school, from me, and from my 93-year-old mother who is fighting COVID-19 and holding her own. We cannot wait to see how you change the world and make it a better place.
Transcript of Chancellor’s Remarks and Conferral of Degrees
Andrew D. Martin, PhD
Conferral of Degrees Chancellor
Greetings to the Class of 2020 and to your families and loved ones, and congratulations on this significant milestone. To the Class of 2020, please know that this virtual event is not meant to replace your graduation. I can promise you that we are working on plans for a proper in-person celebration sometime in the future. But for now, let me offer some thoughts.
First, a big shout-out and thanks to those parents and guardians who have supported our students. You should feel immensely proud of all your child has accomplished, and we are extremely grateful for your partnership in their success.
Second, a significant thanks goes to our faculty and staff across the university. Those who helped move us quickly to remote instruction. Those who helped pack belongings. Those who sent notes with support, encouragement, and resources to our students. Those who have been here all along to cultivate their success —from the time they set foot on campus until now. We owe you a debt of gratitude, and I am reminded especially in moments like these that it is people like you who make this place so special and distinctive. Thank you!
And now, to the Class of 2020. I want to start with a story.
This is a story about a woman named Alice Emasu. Alice is originally from a small village in Uganda known for its lack of resources and basic human rights, including access to proper health care, prevention, and education. But that didn’t stop Alice from pursuing her dream to enact change.
Her passion for women’s rights and public health began at the young age of 18, when she discovered that several of her friends had died from obstetric fistula. While this particular condition was devastating her home village of Bululu and others around it, instead of letting these challenges overcome her, she used it as fuel to launch interventions.
In 1999, Alice founded The Association for the Rehabilitation and Re-orientation of Women for Development in order to promote awareness and treat the condition, yet she continued to come up against obstacles in her home country.
As a result, Alice chose to pursue her master’s degree here at Washington University’s Brown School. Armed with a degree, philanthropic contributions, and an ambitious dream, last year, Alice spearheaded the construction of the Specialized Women’s Hospital in Soroti, Eastern Region, Uganda, one of the first of its kind in the country.
This is a profound story about overcoming adversity—and not just overcoming adversity, but using that adversity to fuel passion, drive, and overwhelming success.
Many of you have already faced adversity in your life. Some of you are, as of today, the first in your family to graduate from college. Some of you come from households near or below the poverty line. Some of you struggle with disabilities or mental health concerns. Some of you have faced injury or physical ailment. Some of you have overcome the loss of a parent or loved one.
This semester you faced yet another collective obstacle—a spring semester that abruptly moved online, immense feelings of displacement, and the loss of a physical community of people who have helped you thrive and flourish up until this point.
This one collective obstacle has also led to other individual obstacles.
Some of you have lost your jobs, or your parents have lost their jobs. Some of you needed to find a place to live. Some of you were worried about your own health as well as the health and safety of your loved ones. Some of you have had summer and fall plans put on hold. And all of you have experienced some kind of loss in physical isolation. Indeed, we are all grieving in some form or another. These anxieties and disappointments are real, and they are valid. In addition, they are obstacles you have worked hard and quickly to overcome—some that you are still overcoming as we speak.
Every year during Commencement, the Chancellor gives a charge to the Class. In keeping with that tradition, my charge to you today is that you find ways to live in the present moment, to not let uncertainty overcome your thoughts, and to find ways to use these moments of adversity to learn and grow. To find new ways of coping, new ways of doing, and new ways of relating to one another and the world around you. To become more empathetic and compassionate. To fuel your passions and turn dreams into realities.
I hope you can look back on this spring semester and be proud of the ways you channeled adversity for the betterment of yourself and the betterment of humanity.
Alice’s story of adversity has already been written in stone. While there are many similar stories written about others who have come before, you better believe that this historic moment is also being written in stone. And when we write your stories as alumni of Washington University, what will they say about you, the Class of 2020?
Right now, you are working to write YOUR story, and someday, I hope the headlines read something likes these:
Washington University alumnus discovers breakthrough treatment for cancer.
Washington University alumna leads nonprofit to address racial disparities in St. Louis.
Washington University alumnus overturns historic case of injustice in their own community.
Sacrifice, global citizenship, leadership, service, dignity, and resilience —these are some of the qualities and values we hold dearly at Washington University. The values we have been working to cultivate in you since you stepped foot on our campus. And the values we hope you carry with you as you work to make yourself and the world a better place for years and decades to come.
While I’m deeply saddened that this is the way this phase of your time on this campus had to end, I am comforted to know that your time with us at Washington University is just beginning. That’s why we call it Commencement. Your WashU journey doesn’t end here. It starts here, and what you do moving forward will be the story we write.
Thank you, once again, for your flexibility, your determination, your passion, and your convictions, and congratulations on this significant milestone. Once the time is right, I look forward to seeing you back on this campus to celebrate in person, and I look forward to many more moments with you as you engage in your lifelong Washington University journey. Until that time comes, stay safe and well, and know that we are thinking of you.
Messages for the Class of 2020
Thank you #WashU20:
Postcards to students who embody the spirit of the Class of 2020
MD/PhD candidate Kow Essuman is finding new ways to treat people with neurodegenerative diseases.
MD candidate Kate Gerull advocates for women and underrepresented minorities in medicine.
Hats off to our future doctors!
Best wishes to the MD Class of 2020, from the faculty of WashU Med. Please accept our congratulations, our advice and our heartfelt wishes for a life filled with health and happiness. We cannot wait to see what is next for you!
Dear Class of 2020,
You inspire us! You have served as dedicated and determined leaders in our community, and we are excited to see all of the incredible things that you will accomplish.
From the Class of 2021
Dear Future Doctors,
You amaze us! During these last two months, you have shown that you will be not just incredible doctors, but that you already are bold, compassionate and resilient leaders.
You have shown that you are the future of medicine. And we could not be more proud.
From the WashU Med faculty
You make us proud to be part of WashU! Thank you for dedicating your lives to service and innovation. You are embarking on a wonderful journey.
From WUSM alumni, faculty & staff
2019 MD Commencement ceremony
May 17, 2019
- Photos: 2019 Commencement ceremony photos and highlights
- Commencement Program 2019 (pdf)
- Student speaker: Nirbhay Jain, MD ’19, Class President
- Graduate student speaker at all-university Commencement: Alexandra Keane, MD
Read Dr. Keane’s address »
Keynote speaker: Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH
Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH
Pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate
Watch Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s address (video) »
Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP is founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, an innovative and model public health program in Flint, Michigan. A pediatrician, scientist, and activist, Dr. Hanna-Attisha has testified twice before the United States Congress, awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America, and named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for her role in uncovering the Flint Water Crisis and leading recovery efforts. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC and countless other media outlets championing the cause of children in Flint and beyond. She is founding donor of the Flint Child Health and Development Fund (flintkids.org).
Dr. Hanna-Attisha received her bachelor’s and Master of Public Health degrees from the University of Michigan and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU CHM). She completed her residency at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where she was chief resident. She is currently an associate professor of pediatrics and human development at MSU CHM.
Her new bestselling book What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City is a riveting, beautifully rendered account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of activism and hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their—and all of our—children.
Videos from Commencement
Watch keynote speeches »
2018 MD Commencement ceremony
May 18, 2018
- Photos: 2018 Commencement ceremonies
- Commencement Program 2018 (pdf)
- Student speaker: Jorge Zárate Rodriguez, MD ’18, class president
Keynote speaker: Adil Haider, MD
Adil Haider, MD, MPH, FACS
Kessler Director, Center for Surgery and Public Health
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Watch Dr. Haider’s address (video) »
Adil Haider, MD, MPH, FACS is an active trauma and acute care surgeon, a prolific researcher, and director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health (CSPH), a joint initiative of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the Deputy Editor of JAMA Surgery and holds numerous leadership positions, including President of the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS).
Dr. Haider is credited with uncovering racial disparities after traumatic injury and establishing the field of trauma disparities research. He is regarded as one of the foremost experts on healthcare inequities in the United States, with projects focused on describing and mitigating unequal outcomes based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age and socioeconomic status. His other research focuses on long-term clinical and functional outcomes after trauma and emergency general surgery, optimal treatment of trauma/critically ill patients in resource-poor settings, and advanced analytic techniques for surgical health services research.
Dr. Haider has formally mentored more than 100 research trainees, published more than 250 peer reviewed papers and currently serves as Principal Investigator on extramural grants worth more than ten million dollars. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Dr. Haider believes that equality is the cornerstone of medicine, and his professional goal is to eradicate disparities in healthcare in the United States.
Videos from 2018 Commencement
Watch keynote speeches »
2017 MD Commencement ceremony
May 19, 2017
- Photos: 2017 Commencement ceremonies
- Commencement Program 2017 (pdf)
- Student speaker: Miriam Ben Abdallah, MD ’17, class president
Keynote speaker: Leana Wen, MD ’07
Leana Wen, MD ’07
Commissioner of Health, City of Baltimore,
Emergency Medicine Physician
Public Health Policy, patient safety and patient-centered care, transparency in medicine, and international health systems research.
Dr. Leana Wen received her medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis and continued her training at Brigham & Women’s/Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School. She is a Rhodes Scholar, a critically-acclaimed author, a renowned speaker, and the 2016 recipient of the American Public Health Association’s highest award for local public health work, the Milton and Ruth Roemer Award. Read Dr. Wen’s full bio on her website.
Watch Dr. Wen’s address (video) »
Videos from 2017 Commencement
Watch keynote speeches »
#WashU17 grad fills the gap in disability training
Class of 2017 graduate Hilary Gallin helped develop a curriculum aimed at improving care for patients with disabilities. Read the story »
2016 MD Commencement ceremony
May 20, 2016
- Photos: 2016 Commencement ceremonies
- Graduate profiles: 2016 Class Acts
- Commencement Program 2016 (pdf)
- Student speaker: Anand “Andy” Mohapatra, MD ’16, class president
Keynote speaker: Thomas Hornbein, MD ’56
Thomas Hornbein, MD ’56
Clinical Professor Emeritus and Former Chair,
Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine
Professor Emeritus, Physiology and Biophysics
University of Washington School of Medicine
High altitude medicine and physiology, chemical regulation of breathing, and chemical dependency in health care personnel
On May 22, 1963, Dr. Hornbein, with his climbing partner Willi Unsoeld, were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest by the west slope.
Dr. Hornbein was featured in Washington Magazine‘s Winter 2000 issue.
2015 MD Commencement ceremony
May 15, 2015
- Photos: 2015 Commencement ceremonies
- Graduate profiles: Recognizing graduates who are changing the world
- Commencement Program 2015 (pdf)
Keynote speaker: C. Garrison Fathman, MD ’69
C. Garrison Fathman, MD ’69
Professor or Medicine and Chief of Division of Immunology
Director, Institute for Immunology
Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. C. Garrison Fathman is Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Immunology and Rheumatology at Stanford University School of Medicine and Associate Director of the Institute for Immunology, Transplantation and Infection (ITI) and Director of the Center for Clinical Immunology at Stanford (CCIS). He was Founder and first-President of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS).
Dr. Fathman’s substantial scientific contributions in the areas of cellular and molecular immunology have brought him international recognition. As Director of the CCIS, he initiated a multidisciplinary approach to study and treat autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and initiated several new approaches to education and community outreach.
Dr. Fathman received his Medical Degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1969. He subsequently completed his residency training at Dartmouth Affiliated Hospitals and completed a fellowship in immunology and rheumatology at Stanford University. He then spent four years in training in research, first at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH, and then as a member of the Basel Institute of Immunology in Switzerland. He returned to the United States to join the faculty at the Mayo Clinic Medical School in 1977 and was recruited back to Stanford University in 1981.
Dr. Fathman is a member of many professional organizations, including the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) and the Association of American Physicians (AAP), and is past council member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and past-President of the Clinical Immunology Society (CIS). He was Associate Editor of the Annual Review of Immunology for 25 years and serves on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals. Dr. Fathman has chaired a variety of national and international professional meetings, served on NIH study sections and numerous blue ribbon panels, and has written more than 300 articles on his research in molecular and cellular characterization of CD4 T cell activation and unresponsiveness.
2014 MD Commencement ceremony
May 16, 2014
- Photos: 2014 Commencement ceremonies
- Graduate profiles: Recognizing graduates who are changing the world
- Commencement Program 2014 (pdf)
Keynote speaker: Mark McClellan, MD, PhD
Mark McClellan, MD, PhD
Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, is a senior fellow and director of the Initiative on Value and Innovation in Health Care at the Brookings Institution. Within Brookings, his work focuses on promoting quality and value in patient centered health care.
A doctor and economist by training, he also has a highly distinguished record in public service and in academic research. Dr. McClellan is a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where he developed and implemented major reforms in health policy. These include the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the FDA’s Critical Path Initiative, and public-private initiatives to develop better information on the quality and cost of care.
Dr. McClellan chairs the FDA’s Reagan-Udall Foundation, is co-chair of the Quality Alliance Steering Committee, sits on the National Quality Forum’s Board of Directors, is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
He previously served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and senior director for health care policy at the White House, and was an associate professor of economics and medicine at Stanford University.
2013 MD Commencement ceremony
May 17, 2013