Baylor College of Medicine

Nobel laureate Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr. to give Baylor College of Medicine commencement address

Nobel laureate Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr. to give Baylor commencement address

Molly Chiu


Houston, TX -
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William Kaelin
Dr. William Kaelin Jr.

Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr., Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, will give the John E. Whitmore Lecture commencement address at Baylor College of Medicine’s commencement ceremony in May. Along with Kaelin, three others will receive honorary degrees: Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, president and CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health; Justin Mayer, general manager of Hess Toy Truck; and Jesse Herrera, principal of Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health professions.

“This year’s honorary degree recipients have demonstrated excellence in their fields, and we are pleased to recognize their important contributions to medicine, science, education and community service,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, president, CEO and executive dean of the College. “I look forward to celebrating their accomplishments and hearing their advice for our graduates at the ceremony in May.”

The commencement ceremony for the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Health Professions Genetic Counseling Program will be held May 28 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Dr. William Kaelin is the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a senior physician-scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He was one of three scientists to receive the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American College of Physicians. His research seeks to understand how, mechanistically, mutations affecting tumor-suppressor genes cause cancer. He obtained his undergraduate and M.D. degrees from Duke University and completed his training in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as chief medical resident. 

Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding is the president and CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), a non-profit organization that builds public-private-patient biomedical research partnerships to address important medical challenges in support of the NIH mission. She also co-chairs the Center for Strategic and International Studies Bipartisan Alliance for Global Health Security. Gerberding formerly served as president of Merck Vaccines and as executive vice president and chief patient officer at Merck & Co., Inc. From 2003-2009, Gerberding led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gerberding is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the adjunct faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and Case Western Reserve University. 

Kaelin and Gerberding will receive the Doctor of Letters in Medicine from Baylor. This degree is awarded to leaders who have excelled in academia through teaching, research or public service and whose acts have brought credit or advancement to Baylor or the profession of academic medicine.

Justin Mayer is the general manager of Hess Toy Truck, leading overall sales, marketing and operations of the Hess Toy Truck program. His unwavering commitment to philanthropy and community engagement has yielded more than $100 million in support for various children's education, poverty and healthcare organizations. He played a pivotal role in developing the highly successful Hess Toy Truck STEM education and donation program in collaboration with Baylor. Each year, Baylor’s Center for Educational Outreach develops curriculum using the best-selling toy as a learning tool, enabling educators to introduce STEM concepts through engaging play. This initiative has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of children in classrooms nationwide. Mayer holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Jesse Herrera is the principal of Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a partnership between Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Independent School District. Founded in 1972, DeBakey was the first school of its kind in the nation, designed to increase opportunities for all students to access careers in medicine, science and the health professions. Herrera has more than 30 years of experience in public education. He previously collaborated with Baylor as principal of Sanchez Elementary, working to create an Elementary Model Science Lab to provide staff development for teachers. From 2016-2022, he was the founding principal of Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk. This partnership created one of the only middle schools in Texas with a focus on biotechnology and health sciences.

Mayer and Herrera will receive the Doctor of Humanities in Medicine, awarded to individuals who have provided exceptional support or service, either directly or indirectly, to Baylor College of Medicine or to academic medicine as a whole and to the community at large.

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