• Press Release

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Honors Leaders in Global Human Rights, Medicine, Research, and Journalism

Students, physicians and scientists encouraged to meet today’s health care challenges through strength of character and compassion

  • (May 09, 2014)

The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; a pioneer in cancer research; a Nobel Prize winner; and a leading physician and medical journalist were among those honored at the 45th annual Commencement of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, held at Avery Fisher Music Hall in New York City.  A total of 205 degrees were granted to medical students and students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, with Ambassador Samantha Power delivering the commencement address.

Ambassador Power received a Doctor of Humane Letters for her tireless work as a crusader for human rights and for her extensive advocacy work on behalf of the LGBT community, women’s rights, and combating sex trafficking worldwide.  Also honored were Nancy Haven Doe Hopkins, PhD, a champion of equity for women in science whose work shed new light on the mechanisms that cause cancer; Louis J. Ignarro, PhD, a co-awardee of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine who investigations into nitric oxide paved the way for novel drug therapies to treat a range of conditions; and Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent, CNN, a practicing neurosurgeon whose Emmy Award-winning reporting illustrates complex topics in medicine for millions of viewers worldwide.

In her remarks, Ambassador Power called on the graduating students to remember the important role their medical careers will play in the patients’ lives.  Referring to her mother, Veronica Delaney, MD, who is Senior Faculty in Medicine and Nephrology at Mount Sinai, the Ambassador also reflected on the similarities between being a doctor and a diplomat, saying, “Never forget that you are privileged.  For me, being an ambassador is the greatest privilege of my life.  As physicians and scientists, you have even a more profound privilege in trying to find a cure.  Your work is above all public service.  Instead of just saying, ‘I’m going to be a doctor,’ say this instead: ‘I am privileged to be a doctor.’”   She also shared her believe that individuals in both professions had to “listen and see” and “respect and reflect dignity.”  She also said that “not being afraid to question is a true sign of humility and tremendous confidence.”

Dennis S. Charney, MD, the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs of Mount Sinai Health System, meanwhile warned that despite changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, as well as advances in technology, it was the job of all physicians to “lead, rather than react to those innovations.”   

“The physician of 2024 may have half of his or her patient encounters virtually,” said Dr Charney.  “Advances in personal biometric devices, in communications technology, and analysis of the flood of data that can come from these sources will allow the patient to interact efficiently and quickly with his or her physician.  As such, it falls to you, the Class of 2014, to uphold the core principles of this ancient tradition in a world its founders would find unrecognizable. It falls upon you, the next generation of medical doctors and scientists, to preserve the special time-honored bond between physician and patient, to preserve, in the immortal words of Hippocrates, ‘The practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times!’”

Dr. Charney also urged the students, physicians and scientists to act with strength of character, compassion and integrity.  He emphasized that “never losing sight of your patient’s humanity is the most important ingredient to a lifetime of clinical practice” and that “integrity is central to patient trust and to the healing process.”

Kenneth L. Davis, MD, CEO and President of the Mount Sinai Health System, highlighted the challenges of addressing public health threats during a time of major health care reform.  “You may think: ‘I might be able to help my patients reduce obesity; and I can encourage end of life planning, but I cannot stimulate drug discovery or implement change on a national, state or even municipal level.’  But that line of thinking underestimates the special place you, as a physician, will hold in society, and it obscures your responsibility to your patients.”

Dr. Davis continued: “As doctors you must take advantage of your status within the community to educate policy makers and politicians about important health issues; participate in local and regional politics, and be a voice of reason in an increasingly polarized debate.  The future of health care is in your hands -- and knowing who each of you are, and what you have already accomplished, I am confident that our future is in good hands.”

About the honorees
• Ambassador Samantha Power (Doctor of Humane Letters) was recognized as an outspoken crusader for human rights and an award-winning journalist who has worked tirelessly to expose human rights atrocities around the world and to advocate for international intervention in humanitarian crises.  Before becoming United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council at the White House, devoting her foreign policy expertise to addressing issues such as LGBT and women’s rights, human trafficking, corruption, and religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities.  Ambassador Power also spearheaded the formation of the Atrocities Prevention Board as part of a broader effort to build a human rights perspective into U.S. foreign policy.  Prior to joining the Obama administration, you were the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  As a journalist, she reported on human rights atrocities and the consequences of U.S. foreign policy decisions during periods of war and genocide, and from 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, Boston Globe, and The New Republic.  Over the next decade, she filed reports from East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, bringing the human face of foreign policy choices into the public consciousness.   In 2003, Ms. Power was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize for your book “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, which examines American foreign policy following World War I and U.S. government inaction in the face of genocide.   Her 2005 New Yorker article on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan won the National Magazine Award for Best Reporting.

• Nancy Haven Doe Hopkins, PhD (Doctor of Science) A renowned molecular biologist and a champion of equity for women in science, Dr. Hopkins’s work has shed new light on the mechanisms that cause cancer and laid the foundation for future generations of women to pursue rewarding and equitable careers in the sciences.  She is a pioneer in biology, one whose innovative research has advanced scientific understanding of the genetic mechanisms of cancer. Dr. Hopkins’s investigations elucidated how retroviruses cause leukemia in mice, and helped establish zebrafish as a model genetic organism to study cancer.  As the Amgen, Inc. Professor emerita of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her current research focuses on cancer prevention and early detection. Dr. Hopkins is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, you have received numerous awards including the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award, the Centennial 7 Medal from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award from the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

• Louis J. Ignarro, PhD (Doctor of Science)  A co-awardee of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998, Dr. Ignarro’s groundbreaking investigations of nitric oxide (NO) have given scientists crucial insight into the role of nitric oxide in the human body and paved the way for novel drug therapies to treat a range of conditions, from hypertension to impotence. His pioneering research also transformed the scientific understanding of what protects the cardiovascular system against pathological conditions such as hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease. Additionally, Dr. Ignarro’s observation that NO is a neurotransmitter mediating penile erection led to the development of Viagra as the first oral medication to effectively treat erectile dysfunction. He is currently the Jerome J. Belzer, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.   In addition to the Nobel Prize, his achievements have been recognized with numerous other awards including The Basic Research Prize and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Heart Association, as well as the CIBA Award for Hypertension Research.

• Sanjay Gupta, MD (Doctor of Science) An accomplished neurosurgeon and Emmy-award winning journalist, Dr. Gupta’s insightful reporting for both CNN http://www.cnn.com/CNN/anchors_reporters/gupta.sanjay.html and Everyday Health http://www.everydayhealth.com/conditions/sanjay-gupta has helped illuminate complex topics in medical science and human health for millions of Americans, encouraging informed discussion and decision-making among healthcare consumers.  As Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, he reports on health and medical news for programs such as New Day and Anderson Cooper 360°, as well as CNN documentaries. Anchor of the weekend medical affairs program, Sanjay Gupta, MD, and bestselling author of three books, you also contribute to 60 Minutes, CNN.com, and CNNHealth.com on a wide range of medical and scientific topics.  A medical journalist of the highest caliber, his reporting has contributed to several major awards for CNN, including two Peabody Awards and the 2005 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award.   A practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Gupta is on faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine and serves as Associate Chief of Neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital.  He is a diplomat of the American Board of Neurosurgery and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and several professional associations.

To learn more about the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, visit www.mssm.edu/education. You can also so visit the Department of Medical Education and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences online.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 7,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is in the "Honor Roll" of best hospitals in America, ranked No. 15 nationally in the 2016-2017 "Best Hospitals" issue of U.S. News & World Report. The Mount Sinai Hospital is also ranked as one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Geriatrics, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Ear, Nose & Throat, and is in the top 50 in four other specialties. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 10 nationally for Ophthalmology, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, and Mount Sinai West are ranked regionally. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report in "Best Children's Hospitals."

For more information, visit http://www.mountsinai.org or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.