Photo by Flying Squirrel Graphics

Class Day 2012

Spirits were bright at Class Day and Dartmouth Commencement on June 9 and 10. The Geisel School awarded 158 degrees: 69 MDs, 38 PhDs, 38 MPHs, and 13 MS degrees. Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, gave the keynote address. The students speakers were Mary Kate Rod Hattan, Geisel ’12 (for the MDs), Valerie Jacobs, Ph.D. ’12, Geisel ’14 (for the PhDs); and Laura Bozzuto, DC ’07, TDI ’12, Geisel ’13 (for the graduates of The Dartmouth Institute). Scroll down or click on their names to read their parting words.

Mary Kate Rod Hattan, Geisel '12

Congratulations doctors of the Geisel School of Medicine Class of 2012! It took a lot of dedication and hard work to get to this joyous day. It turns out you can learn a lot from students, and in the past four years, you are the ones who taught me what it means to be a doctor. But before I pour my heart out with admiration and love for all of you, I want to acknowledge some of the people who have been a part of our journey.

To our family and friends who developed a greater understanding of what it means to be in medical school than most, thank you for the support and assurance that we would get through. Thank you to our deans, faculty, and staff who fostered such a deep sense of community while filling us with more education than seems possible. I also want to acknowledge and thank our patients who welcomed us into their lives and shared their joys and suffering, even when we introduced ourselves as “just the medical student.”

Four years ago, I listened to Andy Welch, the director of admissions, read the collective resume for the class of 2012. “Surgical nurse, accomplished actress, army captain, opera singer.” It seemed an exercise in intimidation, except that I had already met many of you and had seen how down to earth and humble you are.

Since that day, you’ve managed not only to obtain an MD, a huge feat in itself, you’ve also added pages and pages to our collective resume and made this class a force to be reckoned with. Nine of you earned PhDs, MBAs or MPHs since coming to Dartmouth. You’ve published numerous journal articles and presented at conferences around the world. You’ve volunteered in free clinics from rural New Hampshire and Vermont to rural Ethiopia. You gathered supplies and shipped them to Haiti, and then followed them yourselves in the wake of the disaster there.

But it was your subtle and often unnoticed acts, things that will never end up on our resume, which taught me what it means to be a doctor and gives me such faith in our class. You taught me perseverance as you sat studying in a chair surviving on coffee and ice cream from Cravin’s long enough to win a spot in the Guinness book of records. You got up at ungodly hours to see your patients before the resident arrived and stayed extra late to visit again before returning home. You learned every nurse’s name on the floor by day three of your pediatric rotation. You knew your patient better than anyone else on the care team and knew that simple pleasures, like having coffee with her son, bring joy and meaning to her life. You were the first healthcare provider to speak to your patient in Russian, his native language, and get him to laugh. You were stopped in the grocery store by a mom who fondly remembered when you delivered her baby a year ago.

You’ve had children and built new families with grace and love during a hectic time. We’ve become an extended family. We’ve gone camping and had potlucks, went to apple orchards, swam in the Connecticut River, visited the knoll, climbed fire towers and mountains, gone skiing and dancing. We supported and celebrated each other during our pre-clinical and clinical years.

Regardless of how we ended up here, whether planned since childhood or inspired by a formative experience later in life, there is one question heard by everyone who aspires to be a doctor today, “Why would you ever want to do that?” We are told that we will work too hard. We were warned that we won’t get the same respect as our predecessors. We know that healthcare is broken. But it is no surprise that I have seen you act with such great empathy and compassion. For our generation, you must be motivated by altruism and a desire to make things better to become a doctor.

And now as doctors, our ability to affect change -- for a single patient, for a clinic or hospital or even on a national level -- has just skyrocketed. There is a privilege bestowed on doctors by their patients and by society, a privilege of trust, intimacy, and a belief that doctors will do right and therefore have the authority and responsibility to speak as the ultimate advocate for their patients. From this day on, we will be expected to be healers, teachers, listeners, allies, ever learners, and change agents.

We are not just about to finally have jobs. We are entering a profession that is held to higher moral and ethical standards than most because we will hold our patients’ lives in our hands. I know without question that you will do great things in your future because I have already seen you do great things. Although we are going separate ways, the family we built in this class will remain a force. I can’t wait to see the wonderful accomplishments you add to our collective resume. And I will always remain impressed with your silent daily wonderful ways of caring for others.

I’d like to leave you with a Franciscan blessing that eloquently expresses not only my wish for you, but my expectation. May you be blessed with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May you be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May you be blessed with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may you be blessed with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Thank you and congratulations, again, to the Class of 2012!

After graduating from Boston College, Mary Kate Rod Hattan worked for two years at a nonprofit, building schools in Haiti, Nicaragua, and a Native American reservation. She then worked for four years in Boston as an advocate for people who were homeless. Hattan will train in family medicine at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, Mass., where two other alumni are on the faculty—Evan Teplow ’92 and Andrew Smith ’04.

Valerie Jacobs Ph.D. ’12, Geisel ‘14

Good Morning. Welcome Dr. Farmer, Dean Souba, faculty, students, and loved ones. I am honored to address each of you this morning.

“Every beginning is some other beginning’s end.” I wanted to start with a quote—this is from Semionic’s “Closing Time,” circa 1997. Most of you have heard it and some of you might be singing the song for the rest of my speech. (Sorry for that.) But I believe there is truth to this quote. As we end our studies here, we are beginning an entirely new branch in our lives. During our graduate training we have learned to build upon the work of those who came before us and gained the skills to ultimately lay a foundation for those who will come after.

I want to tell a story about one of those scientists who led the way for others. Richard Feynman grew up in Queens, New York. He tells a story about going on a walk one day with his dad, a wagon, and ball. As he pulled his wagon, the ball would roll to the back. He asked his dad: “Why does the ball go to the back of the wagon?” His dad replied, “Why that is because of inertia.” “What is inertia?” Richard asked. His father answered, “Ahh, well it is what scientists say to describe how a ball rolls to the back of a wagon when you are pulling. But in truth, no one really knows.” Richard Feynman received his Ph.D. from Princeton and went on to solve the Challenger disaster and win the Nobel Prize in physics for describing the movement of subatomic particles. He credits that conversation with his father as giving him the sense that the simplest questions can carry you out to the edge of human knowledge with the right tools in hand.

The great scientists of our past are not so different from us now. We are all just meat and water and start with the same tools—our brain, eyes, and ears. Their curiosity changed the world and so can we. We live in an age with multi-billion dollars of machinery identifying new genomic sequences every day, all made possible by discoveries just in this past decade alone. And all started with the simplest questions. We are poised now to take our next step, armed with our innate tools and those we gained during our studies here in a field that is experiencing a scientific technology revolution.

All of us have a mentor, a classmate, or more that helped make today possible. These people have taught us values and skills beyond scientific critical thinking. Personally, I have learned so much from my mentor, Joyce DeLeo. When I look back, initially I remember those hours spent learning to write grants, write papers, and prepare for RIPs and poster presentations. But upon second look, what we have really learned from our mentors is far more important. We have learned the essentials of strong collaboration, teaching others, and supporting those around. I have seen this exemplified in many of you, my classmates, who were willing to spend your weekends discussing papers with me at Umbleby’s or sharing experimental ideas over some margaritas—even sharing reagents and protocols without anything in return.

This willingness to give and help others goes beyond the lab. Together we have cooked meals at David’s House and spent Tuesday nights in a soup kitchen. I followed several of you on Facebook as you crusaded for Relay for Life or ran the CHaD marathon. This is what makes our Dartmouth community unique. We may be closing a door in our graduate school studies, but we are opening the door to an entire new world of scientific possibilities. Just as science continually builds on previous work, we will continue to grow from what we have accomplished and learned from each other in this environment. These are qualities that we will pass on wherever we go.

We are graduating today, but as newly minted scientists our work is never done. This is our “closing time, time to close all the doors and let us out into the world.” As we each end this chapter and start our new beginning—whether it be in academic research, teaching, industry, or further schooling—I ask you to remember all we have learned and accomplished. Continue to keep an open mind to all possibilities and ask the simple questions. You never know where that next discovery lies. Remember your commitment and service to others, as well as to science, and you have the tools to not only be leaders in your field, but leaders in this world. Congratulations Class of 2012!

Originally from Arizona, Valerie Jacobs earned her bachelor’s in molecular bioscience and biotechnology at Arizona State University.  She taught 8th grade math for a year before coming to Dartmouth and enrolling in the M.D.-Ph.D. program. For her Ph.D., she researched glial modulators as a novel therapy for glioblastoma multiforme in the lab of Joyce DeLeo, Ph.D. In the fall, she will resume medical school and begin third-year clinical rotations.

Laura Bozzuto, DC ’07, TDI ’12, Geisel ’13

First, thank you to the TDI faculty, students, families, and friends for letting me speak to our class today. A special thanks to my original Geisel classmates who are graduating. Congratulations, friends.

I am honored to be able to address all the graduates today, and particularly my TDI class.

Our time at TDI has been an educational experience like no other. Over the past year, we have had the opportunity to learn from some of the most influential people in health policy and health services research. Those people who are quoted in the New York Times, the New England Journal, and on NPR – they taught us how to read a research paper, how to use STATA (more or less successfully), and what the hell an Odds Ratio means.

At a moment in our country’s history when the future of health care is at once so certain—the need for change—and so uncertain—how and what will happen—we have been given tremendous opportunity to learn from the people advising our policy makers.

This year, I’ve felt somewhat in between. In between medical school classes. In between the docs and residents in our program and the recent grads. In between my classroom learning and clinical education.

During the year, sometimes this in between feeling was uncomfortable. Feeling like I didn’t belong. Feeling like I was lost. Uncertain about the future.  Unsure if I made the right choice.

I think my classmates have felt some of the same.

Some, looking forward: to finishing residency, to starting medical school, to getting their first big grant.

Some looking back: to their experiences with clinical care as a doctor, a nurse, or as a patient; to questions that have arisen through experiences in such a complicated system; to lessons learned, sometimes difficultly.

TDI itself is a program that is somewhat in between. It straddles medicine and research; the clinic and policy. Sometimes this is uncomfortable. A voice crying in the wilderness, the Dartmouth motto, definitely applies to TDI. Listening to Drs. Wennberg, Fisher, and Mulley, it is clear that this unique position and evaluation of healthcare has been uncomfortable for them too. It has taken decades for them to reach the point where their voices are finally being heard.

TDI has prepared us to be just that—in between, a bridge. To span those halves and make something solid and lasting. To have influence on both parts. In this in-between space.

President Wright, who was the President of Dartmouth while I was an undergrad, used to tell the students “to those given much privilege, comes much responsibility. We have much to do, you and I.” Obviously he said this in his booming, History-channel voice so it all sounded much more profound than what I just said, but nonetheless, I think of those words often.

You and I have been entrusted with extraordinary privilege—an education from TDI, from the faculty who have shaped so much of health policy and health services research, and from each other. Even more important than repaying our loans, it is important we repay this debt. We have a responsibility to Drs. Wennberg, Fisher, Mulley, and many others. A responsibility to magnify their voices. And to add our own to the chorus. We have a responsibility to apply our degrees to do good—however that calls to us.

Thank you.

After graduating from Dartmouth College, Laura Bozzuto worked at the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making in Boston, Mass. A year later, she came back to Hanover for medical school and completed a master’s degree at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice between her third and fourth years. She plans to apply to residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology.