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At Commencement, An Equitable Vision

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medical students at graduation
Amlu Natesan stands with her Class of 2017 medical student graduates at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.
Photos: Elisabeth Fall

By Karin Fleming

Delivering the welcome address at this year’s UCSF School of Medicine commencement at Davies Symphony Hall yesterday, Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, commended 156 graduates as “Students who raised awareness and spurred us to action through their initiatives, and who showed us there is no health without social justice.”

Insights from students and faculty were shared with commencement attendees within the context of social and political transition in the U.S., with a vision for better, more equitable healthcare for our patients and communities.

Selected to deliver the senior address by a committee of peers, student speaker Dexter Lee Louie set the tone with remarks on dedication to one’s purpose, passion, and talents. Louie co-chaired the UCSF School of Medicine Admissions Advisory Committee and served as a class representative in the Associated Students of Medicine. He completed a summer research fellowship to study substance-user environments at the National Institutes of Health, and conducted research at UCSF in the department of psychiatry on the efficacy of the longitudinal resident-faculty advising program.

“As we progress, it’s clear to me that our choices and commitments make us who we are,” said Louie, who will conduct residency training in psychiatry at Stanford University. “In moments like these, we can all have great impact. The question is: what problems call for you to act on them?”

vivek murthy at podium
Vivek Murthy, MD, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, served as the 2017 Commencement speaker.

His remarks complemented a theme of social justice expressed by Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, former U.S. Surgeon General, who delivered the commencement address. Beyond his work as the 19th Surgeon General—advocating for the Affordable Care Act, targeting opioid abuse and gun violence, and co-founding Doctors for America—Murthy is renowned for his expertise and interests in HIV/AIDS research and patient care, as well as public health and prevention initiatives for healthy, tobacco-free living.

“The world needs you to embrace your role as moral leaders who inspire us and bring people together,” said Murthy, addressing the graduates (VIDEO). “To stand up for truth, reason, and science, and to speak for the most vulnerable among us. Our world is locked in a struggle between fear and love. As moral leaders, we must choose to lead with love—our greatest source of power and healing.”

Walid Hamud, the Gold Cane Society Award recipient, sitting with fellow graduates
Gold-Headed Cane recipient Walid-Hamud-Ahmed (center) with Gold-Headed Cane Society inductee Colette DeJong (left) and Senior Address student speaker Dexter Louie (right).

Gold-Headed Cane recipient Walid Hamud-Ahmed was joined on stage by nominees Colette DeJong and Anita Hargrave, both of whom spoke passionately at Match Day in March about their commitment to delivering equitable healthcare through UCSF-affiliated programs such as the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US), the Do No Harm Coalition, and White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL).

The Gold-Headed Cane symbolizes the ideal of the true physician whose qualities endear her to fellow human beings. Each year, through the bestowing of the Gold-Headed Cane, UCSF students and faculty have an opportunity to honor members of the senior class who “best represent those qualities of scholarship and devotion to the interests of patients, which characterize the true physician.”

“I stand in awe of the impact our students have already had on our institution and look forward with great excitement to all that they will accomplish as they launch their careers as UCSF-educated physicians,” said Catherine R. Lucey, MD, Vice Dean for Education, Professor of Medicine, and the Faustino and Martha Molina Bernadett Presidential Chair in Medical Education. “I know the profession of medicine will be enriched by these remarkable graduates. I am deeply grateful that they chose UCSF to start their careers.”

Before the graduating medical students begin residency training and new endeavors, a few spoke about their time at UCSF and their commitment to social justice:

Walid Hamud-Ahmed, whose training at UCSF focused on the study of gun violence, the communities it affects, and ways in which healthcare professionals and community members can intervene and prevent gun injury. “UCSF is filled with intelligent, innovative, and daring people who are bold enough to tackle society’s toughest and otherwise taboo issues. The activism and research that thrives here is what keeps my passion strong, to keep doing more.” Hamud-Ahmed will study in his hometown of Fresno, as a UCSF Fresno Emergency Medicine resident.

Angela Suen, who partnered with Tenderloin Safe Passage in San Francisco to address pedestrian and neighborhood safety issues in the Tenderloin community, conducted addiction research at San Francisco General Hospital, mentored under-represented pre-medical students, and worked to build a more inclusive community at UCSF. “One of the most powerful moments during my time as a UCSF student was the WC4BL student protest. It was incredible to see medical students taking a stand against gun violence.” Suen will study global heath and underserved populations at the University of Pittsburgh Internal Medicine residency program.

Sofia Noori, who worked with PRIME classmates on Youth Creating Change, a leadership program for youth in the Mission. During her MPH year at Berkeley, she explored how digital health can reduce health disparities for underserved populations, and worked on a medical interpretation mobile app to increase access to translator services for patients, and on a cost transparency app for prescription drugs. Noori will begin residency training in psychiatry at Yale University. “In the future, I want to explore how technology can improve care for the most disadvantaged patients, especially within the sphere of mental health,” says Noori. “I have so many memories of seeing equitable healthcare in action at UCSF. I am constantly amazed at the capability of my classmates here at UCSF. Seeing the impact that my classmates have had (and will have) on the world is humbling and empowering.”