BCM graduates well prepared to make big difference, stand out from peers

June 1, 2011

Dr. Peter Hotez

With degrees in hand, the 2011 Baylor College of Medicine graduating class is ready to go out and move mountains.

At least that's the advice they were given by commencement speaker Dr. Peter Hotez, an internationally renowned tropical diseases expert who told the students at the May 24 ceremony that they are now well-prepared to make a major difference in improving the human condition.

"Your Baylor College of Medicine credentials represent the most powerful and versatile degrees that exist," Hotez said. "They are the envy of the intellectual world. Go out and move mountains!"

Responsibility and privilege

At the ceremony, held at Jones Hall in downtown Houston, BCM President Dr. Paul Klotman presented degrees to 178 medical school students and 47 Ph.D. graduates. Another 38 Ph.D. graduates for 2011 are already working in their fields of research and did not participate in the ceremony.

Medical school graduates take the Hippocratic Oath.

Klotman reminded the graduates of how far they have come in their training and the responsibilities that come with the privileges of their professions.

"As a physician and a scientist, you are expected to uphold the standards and ethical practices that our social contract demands," he said. "You no longer represent yourself alone."

"Baylor stands for excellence and leadership," he continued. "You will find wherever you go that Baylor has prepared you well. You will stand out from your peers. Don't shy away from that, take ownership of it."

Klotman called on a representative of both the graduate and medical school classes to speak on behalf of their classmates. Dr. Christopher Bland, who received his doctorate in cellular and molecular biology, spoke for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Alexandra Callan, who will continue with residency training at Vanderbilt University in orthopedic surgery, spoke for the medical school graduates as their class president.

Honorary degrees

The ceremony included the awarding of four honorary degrees to recognize exceptional support and service. Recipients included Dr. John Mendelsohn, who will retire as president of MD Anderson Cancer Center this summer; Dr. Craig Montell, professor of biological chemistry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Dr. Joseph P. Kerwin, a former astronaut and the first U.S. physician to fly in space; and James Mansour, chairman of the oversight committee of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The commencement speaker, Hotez, is the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University. A specialist in tropical diseases and vaccine development, he serves as president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which focuses on vaccine advocacy and policy and the development of vaccines for neglected tropical diseases.

He is an iconic figure in research on the group of 17 chronic parasitic and related infections that represent the most common infections of the world's poorest people.

Improving human condition

Emphasizing that Baylor has now "gone global," he told the graduates they have in hand medical and Ph.D. degrees from "one of the world's great centers of medical and scientific learning."

"You are in a position to discover new innovations for our greatest afflictions. Indeed for most diseases, studies leading to breakthrough understandings or new medicines, diagnostics and vaccines have yet to be discovered. No one is better trained for using science in the pursuit of improving the human condition than the graduates before me this evening."

See slideshow and watch videos for more images of the ceremony.