Commencement 2010

Showers did nothing to dampen spirits at DMS Class Day and Dartmouth Commencement on June 12 and 13. DMS awarded 192 degrees: 86 MDs, 41 PhDs, 42 MPHs, and 23 MS degrees. Graduates were addressed by Dr. E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA , Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (above left). Student speakers at DMS Class Day were MD candidate Rajesh Ramanathan (center photo, far left) and PhD candidate Yolanda Nesbeth (above right, with Dean William R. Green). Scroll down to read their parting words to the DMS community.

Rajesh Ramanathan: A Bold Step Ahead

My name is Rajesh Ramanathan and it is my honor today to be the medical student speaker for the DMS class of 2010. As you all know, we did not make this journey alone, and I want to begin by acknowledging the people that helped us reach this point today.

To our friends and families, I want to offer our deepest thanks. This was a tough road, and during those times when we were convinced that the only things of importance were grades and rounding, you were there to remind us of our lives outside lecture halls and hospital corridors. When we wondered if we were good enough, you were there to comfort and reassure us. When we needed perspective, you were there to offer it, mincing no words. You may have been miles or oceans away, but your thoughts and presence were always felt.

To our professors, attendings, residents, nurses and patients, you all pushed us to excel and maximize our potential. At times, those pushes were gentle nudges, and at other times they were more akin to NFL tackles. These however led us to study and function at levels higher than what we thought was possible. And it wasn’t only knowledge that we have gained from you. You have served as role models, advocates, critics. You have shaped the type of doctors we aspire to be and values we hold dear. You all have illuminated the very paths on which we will now tread.

To the various administrators from student affairs, the registrar’s office, clerkship coordinators, and the dean’s office - you have been the glue that holds things together, but because it dries clear, one hardly see it. If it wasn’t for all the support and behind-the-scenes action, medical school would have definitely been a bumpier ride.

Finally, to the Class of 2010 - we truly are a special group. I spent a while thinking of what more to say, and umpteen revisions later, I have ended up with too much to say. So I am going to start at the beginning, and I cannot help marvel at how much we have grown as individuals and as a class in these past few years. Today I want to talk about how we got to this point, and where we go from here.

Our first year was a time when we worked hard, and played even harder. We had our daily games of knockout, soccer, ping pong and foosball during our breaks. We had our successes on the ice, winning the Fonda Cup. We played both casual and competitive games of soccer and basketball. We had our biweekly quizzes and exams, which at the time were among our most stressful events. It is funny now to recall how towards the end of every other week we would all retreat to our individual battle positions, holing up in Dana or Remsen, fortifying ourselves against the enemies of distraction and procrastination. First year was a time when we were learning to cope with a level of academic rigor many of us had not previously experienced. It was also, in some ways, a simplistic existence dominated by school and play.

Then came second year. Recharged from a summer of rest, international projects and community service, we emerged as leaders and community advocates. We took charge of various student interest groups, advocated for important issues and helped our community through Albert Schweitzer projects, the Good Neighbor and Mascoma Clinics and Dance for a Dream. While the first year epitomized our camaraderie and optimism in the face of academic challenges, the second year witnessed our growth into leaders and community advocates.

The beginning of third year was a time of great anxiety. Although years 1 and 2 had armed us with centuries of medical knowledge and simulated patient interaction, there was little that could have prepared us for the world of clinical medicine. The wards required more of everything. It required not just smarts, but an ability to deliver under pressure. It required discretion. It required teamwork. It required courage and it required compassion. But at every turn, we were up to the challenge. At away sites, we were reputed for being compassionate, clinically sound and most importantly, for being thinkers that did not just do and follow, but who questioned and adapted. With time, third year blurred into fourth year, and we grew in confidence. We observed the different styles of our preceptors and constructed our own. Then, we eventually reached a point where we had maximized our potential as ‘the med student’; we now needed to be residents, we needed more responsibility. We realized we were ready to be doctors. We realized we were ready for today.

Last summer I had a chance to make a garden, and as anyone that has grown tomatoes or other vines would know, you need a stake to direct the plant’s growth. Similarly, our growth in the future also needs to be directed by a stake of sorts. I believe that social responsibility must be that stake. We are the recipients of many privileges and from those privileges arise responsibilities.

At the most basic and sacred level, it is a privilege to be trusted by patients when they whisper to us their secrets and fears, when they consent to be put under general anesthesia, when they bravely submit to that major surgery, and when they ask for our help with bringing their child into this world. I remember a special patient in each of those instances, as I know you all do too. Our access to medical school is another privilege that we tend to take for granted since in our narrowed world, everyone is or has gone through medical school. But medical school is unique, it requires not just intellectual achievement but also social skills, dedication, selflessness, and a desire to do good in this world. We aren’t just any other graduate school, because at the end of the journey we earn the white coat and the MD. Those two things portend a circle of influence that extends beyond our specialties. I bring all this up not to take the sheen off our achievements today, but rather in the hope that we will commit to thinking critically about the direction of our personal lives and our careers.

Through our education, we have gained a skill set and a knowledge library that lets us perform miracles at times, whether by delaying death, healing illness, or increasing quality of life. Let’s use these skills and this knowledge justly. The medical community appears large, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a very narrow guild and each of its members, each of us, commands a significant sphere of influence. Let’s use our influence to change policies and laws to improve the health of our communities.

Let us challenge ourselves to grow into roles beyond the doctor-patient relationship. Let us expand our focus from treating unwell individuals to also addressing the ailments of unwell systems of healthcare delivery. Let us stay true to our class’s mission statement to “advance medicine in our own community and the world” and let us continue to do it with the humor, grace and compassion we have shown thus far. Let us take advantage of opportunities to do more, let us step boldly into new situations and challenges, for it was that boldness that has led to today’s achievements.

During our internships and beyond, it will be easy to get sucked into the rapids of medicine, easy to lose one’s self, to become just another cog in the system. Let us brace ourselves against those turbulent rapids and make sure that we let our flag of individuality fly high.

And we do not have to do all this alone. I started off today’s discussion by thanking the people that have made today’s achievements possible. In our professional lives ahead, we will continue to have mentors and colleagues that can propel us to greater heights. In our personal lives, we will continue to have our families and close friends to provide reassurance and support. Let us take care of them and allow them to take care of us. They will all facilitate our growth, pushing when needed, supporting always. Let us empower them to be our stakes, to guide our growth. Let them nourish our inner tomatoes!

Class of 2010, teachers and staff, friends and family – it is my honor to join you all as we step forth boldly into a future committed to the welfare of our patients and our communities.

Thank you.

Originally from India, Rajesh Ramanathan also lived in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia before coming to the US to study. He is doing his residency in general surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, VA.

Yolanda Nesbeth: Developing Your Personal Brand

Dr. Albert Reece, Dean Green, Dean Pogue, members of the faculty, distinguished guests, members of the Dartmouth Medical School Class of 2010, cherished family and friends, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

It is with great honor and deep humility that I deliver this address on behalf of the graduate students. Before I commence, I would like to extend CONGRATULATIONS to my fellow graduates! This is indeed a moment of great elation commemorating the culmination of our hard work and tenacity. Relish in these moments of festivity. We dedicated a great deal of time and effort to get here…now let us enjoy it!

Unlike most professional degree-holders with defined career paths, as PhDs we have completed our training and received a degree that says we are now certified free thinkers and the universe is our playground. We had the luxury of utilizing existing information to define the knowledge bank. This was exactly the expedition we signed up for as graduate students, the opportunity to observe, reflect, discover, report and redefine life as we know it. As we embarked upon this journey to our PhDs we embarked upon a journey of exploration, primarily to explore the universe and to enhance or refine the world of existing knowledge, yet along the way we inadvertently embarked upon a second journey—one of self-exploration.

Still, despite our designation as authorized free thinkers, we had to undergo similar training to reach this point. We have all toiled through core courses, and labored through long hours in the lab, undergone numerous experimental failures and enjoyed the exhilaration of the few cherished successes. We have struggled with understanding the intricacies and pertinence of forging the right relationships and thus collectively we share one pool of experiences. Further, as we embark upon our future lives we will still be considered part of a batch. We may simply be introduced as one of the new post-docs, one of the incoming consultants, staff scientists, technical specialists etc. So today I want to address the matter of differentiating ourselves as scientists among a group of other talented ones, essentially developing a personal brand!

Some people think the solution to this lies in the acquisition of more knowledge. In fact when faced with the prototypical recruitment/interview question of why you? many often jump to the trite description of their diligent, hardworking and brilliant attributes. But, indeed everyone here receiving this diploma from Dartmouth today is hardworking, diligent and smart. We have all made great achievements, scientifically and scholastically but is that truly enough? If we relegate our value to these traits we forget that all the knowledge we possess someone else can acquire. Thus, what makes each of us different lies in the full potentiation of our talents tailored to our unique experiences.

Bear with me for a moment. Envision yourself as a brand… What is your unique value proposition? This might seem an unusual, and quite difficult question to answer. Yet I guarantee you that your experience at Dartmouth has indeed provided you with a multitude of tools to facilitate the development of your own ‘brand’ and afforded you the opportunities to discern your unique talents to differentiate yourself from the rest.

The Dartmouth environment is a very collaborative one, where there is an abundance of opportunities to work with talented individuals who provide great intellectual stimulation through their curiosity, probing inquiries, sound suggestions and overall constructive criticism. Dartmouth is the type of place where people work together rather than compete with one another to achieve positive results. Through situating us in this small, close-knit environment, Dartmouth has positioned us to become engaged in various non-academic pursuits, thus not only providing us with top-tier academics but a holistic educational system.

I came to Dartmouth after completing a BSc at the University of the West Indies, in Kingston, Jamaica, the beautiful island from which I hail. A foreign student in a foreign land, I set out to gain deeper insights into the operations of such a program and quickly became integrated into all manners of life within the Dartmouth community. In my third year of graduate school I served on the Admissions Committee for the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program where I worked on a team to evaluate applications to the PhD program and implement academic policy. I learned several things including how to inspire the production of a cohesive industrious and dynamic group, lessons I was later able to utilize when, in the summer of 2008, I was granted the opportunity to serve as the activities coordinator for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, enabling me to share my experience with a group of summer undergraduate students from various institutions with limited research resources and similar backgrounds and experiences to myself. Through serving others, I gained a deeper awareness of myself and my unique traits, enabling me to understand what drives me and distinguishes my brand.

Now consider the numerous non-academic experiences you have partaken in and how they have shaped your lives. Review your sources of inspiration, your passions and areas of riveting interest. Discover how these activities have expanded your horizons and intoxicated you in new/foreign and unimaginable regards. Honing these unconventional skills will set us far apart from the rest of the pack. It is this nexus between our experiences and scientific training that must be nurtured to facilitate the development of distinctive traits that determine a personal brand. This combination provides us with challenging, surprising, sharp, unusual yet extraordinary perspectives that can inspire a heightened level of enlightenment for any task. If we reflect upon the experiences we have had at Dartmouth and identify the moments that were most fulfilling or made us most happy we recognize that while venturing on this journey we grasped several alternative life lessons that drive our distinctiveness.

Over the last few years I have realized that… High passing all your courses is a great accomplishment, but is soon forgotten. Do something that makes a lasting impact on someone and yourself. Be authentic and memorable, and discover your value proposition.

To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and fear not the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest!!!

Thank you!!!

A native of Jamaica, Yolanda Nesbeth did her PhD in immunology in the lab of Dr. Jose Conejo-Garcia, where she worked on harnessing the natural immune response to combat ovarian cancer. She has published six peer-reviewed articles in highly reputable journals, including one first author article that was highlighted on the front cover of the journal Cancer Research.

Dr. Nesbeth is a finalist for the prestigious Kauffman Fellowship in the venture capital investing sector and will become a Kauffman Fellow upon matching with a venture firm. In the interim she is working in the biotechnology/healthcare consulting industry to provide strategic and organizational advice for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device/diagnostics businesses.