By Bill Bruton
Published May 3, 2023
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduated 175 medical students during the 177th commencement on April 28.
Nine students in the Class of 2023 earned dual degrees:
Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, presided over the ceremony, which took place at the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.
Brashear expects this year’s class to make its mark on the world.
“I want to congratulate our graduating medical students. As the physician-leaders of tomorrow, our students are committed to achieve differences in people’s lives, no matter the zip code in which they live,” Brashear said.
“It is our vision here at the Jacobs School to train researchers, providers, educators, trainees and students to chart the course of hope for tomorrow. We feel that they have been trained to think forwardly and embrace innovation for the next generation of medical care providers,” Brashear added.
UB President Satish K. Tripathi, PhD, also has high hopes for this year’s class.
“With our mission as your guide, you will make your way through the world with your eyes trained not on the bottom line, but on the greater good. If we have done our job, your UB education has primed you for a life of service and purpose,” Tripathi said. “I’m confident you have everything you need to face any obstacles with resilience and persistence.”
Eric Rubin, MD, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, was keynote speaker.
He spoke about the amazing medical breakthroughs that have been made since his great uncle Paul went to medical school during the Great Depression.
“He went to school 10 years before the discovery of antibiotics. He used to point out a famous Norman Rockwell painting of a doctor sitting next to a sick boy and say ‘that’s all we could do — sit and wait for the fever to break.’ Heart attacks then were a death sentence, and the miraculous cures for childhood leukemia were about 40 years away,” Rubin said.
Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, remembers having the same feelings as his great uncle when dealing with HIV patients more than 30 years ago.
“When I was a fellow and we had newly-diagnosed HIV patients, the first thing we would do is refer them to a social worker to make their will,” Rubin said. “The disease claimed many of my friends and classmates. But now, in another medical miracle, HIV is largely a chronic disease that can be well controlled for those who take their medications.”
He encouraged the medical students to never stop learning.
“Every day in the hospital reminds me of how little I know. I’m constantly learning from my colleagues, trainees and students, and especially from my patients. The practice of medicine changes so rapidly, that much of what you learned in the last four years is likely to be of only historical value,” said Rubin, who proudly put on a UB medical school cap before speaking. “To my mind, to engage in lifelong learning is one of the best aspects of becoming a doctor.”
Class speaker Joseph Lesh emphasized the support class members have received from their loved ones.
“We are so grateful for each and every one of you. We will always appreciate what you’ve done to help us achieve our dream,” Lesh said. “Give yourselves a pat on the back, because in my book, this is your accomplishment too.”
That support extended to classmates.
“The road to becoming a physician is not an easy one, and I’m sure there are times when each of us felt very overwhelmed — whether that was related to the COVID pandemic, social issues, financial barriers or personal challenges,” Lesh said. “Something I am very proud of is the support we have given each other as classmates. One of my first memories from medical school is how willing everyone was to help each other. Simply put, we were always there for one another.”
Lesh, who is going to Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., for his residency in emergency medicine, told his fellow classmates to embrace the future.
“Many of us will be moving to new places to continue our training in a variety of fields. I’m so excited for us. Despite all this change, some things will stay the same. When I look into the future, I am reminded of all of the decisions we have yet to make. I want you to think about all the decisions and the forks-in-the-road you’ve taken in your path and remember that they’ve all led you to this very moment.” Lesh said. “I truly believe this journey has prepared us to be excellent doctors who provide passionate care to those who need it.”
Lori Luzi, MD ’88, president of the Alumni Association, welcomed the new graduates into the UB family.
“I am so happy to welcome you to the network of 280,000 alumni that are located across the United States. Wherever you are, there will always be a UB contact nearby, most of whom will probably be Bills fans,” Luzi said.
She urged the graduates to cherish their Jacobs School memories.
“Hopefully in your time here, you have made lifelong friends, you have met faculty and attending physicians that have influenced you, and you have participated in organizations and groups that will keep you connected to each other and the school,” Luzi said. “The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has given all of you a platform in which to jump off into the next stage of your career. We believe in every one of you, and in return, hope you will believe in this school that gave you the opportunity.”