• Press Release

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Honors Graduates and Health Care Leaders at 47th Annual Medical Education Commencement Ceremony and Inaugural Master’s Degree Commencement Ceremony

  • (2016-05-16 00:00:00.0)

A former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, an award-winning science journalist, the President-Elect of the American Public Health Association, an influential immunologist, and a renowned rheumatologist were honored at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS)’s medical education and master’s degree commencement ceremonies at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center on May 11th and May 13th, 2016.

This year marked the first separate master’s degree commencement ceremony, under the new Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Marta Filizola, as well as the 47th annual medical education commencement.

A total of 327 degrees were conferred to medical and graduate students, including 148 master’s degrees in areas including Public Health, Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Research, Biostatistics, Genetic Counseling, and Health Care Delivery Leadership; 120 MDs; 37 PhDs; and 22 Dual Degrees. This year’s commencements reflect Mount Sinai’s commitment to excellence in patient care and advocacy, therapeutic discovery, and distinguished education of physicians and scientists who will change medical practice and are making a profound impact on human health, locally and globally.

Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, MPA, and Peabody, Polk, and Pulitzer award-winning journalist Laurie Ann Garrett received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees and delivered the commencement addresses to the medical education and master’s degree graduates, respectively. Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, President-Elect of the American Public Health Association;   James P. Allison, PhD, Chairman of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Sir Marc Feldmann, MBBS, PhD, AC, FRS, Head of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology each received honorary Doctor of Science degrees.

“This is a lesson in taking risks—giving yourself permission to fail, knowing that the opportunity to succeed is there and won’t ever be harnessed unless you take a leap,” said Ms. Sebelius. “You are joining, as graduates, a handful of the best-educated people in the world. So you have a big responsibility to go forth, to do good work, to make a positive difference each and every day—and to give yourself permission to take some risks along the way. Even if you don’t know what’s behind the door, kick it open, because you are capable and you have the opportunity.”

“Graduates, get out there and join the worldwide army of public health advocates, but please do so carefully,” said Ms. Garrett. “Listen and learn from local wisdom, refrain from preaching and lecturing, and learn to roll with the punches. Be brave, be smart and try to take a daily dose of humility. Now go forth and save lives.”

“Graduates, this is both an exciting and a complicated time to enter into the practice of medicine,” said Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and CEO of the Mount Sinai Health System. “You will be part of a golden era of biological science. In your lifetimes, our ability to treat the most devastating diseases will be utterly transformed. Today, you begin to wear the responsibility of becoming doctors during this period of great discovery and change. I have seen the extraordinary things you are capable of over these past four years, and I have no doubt that you will wear your new responsibility well, and make us proud of your achievements.”

“The graduates of the class of 2016 have the creativity and intelligence to discover cures for our most serious diseases, and I am sure that they have the motivation to develop and participate in new models of health care designed to reduce inequities of the underserved,” said Dennis S. Charney, MD, the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System. “When science is inclusive, everybody wins. Long underserved communities are finally heard and helped. Class of 2016, I speak today of diversity because I need your commitment. I want you to lead the charge as advocates and activists to eliminate bias and health inequities in your local communities and around the world.”

“The breadth of possibilities for meaningful careers as Mount Sinai graduates should excite and stimulate you. By choosing a health-related profession you have the training and ability to do something valuable, something that truly matters to society,” said Eric Nestler, MD, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs; Nash Family Professor and Chair, Fishberg Department of Neuroscience; and Director, Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Your focus on prevention, population health, underserved communities, and policy will affect not only individual patients and their families, but millions for whom health and well-being have remained elusive. We may all work in different parts of the biomedical world and use our skills and talents to attack problems from very different perspectives, but one thing that we have in common is that we are all integral parts of the health care system.”

“Class of 2016, you are stepping into your roles as leaders at the forefront of health care, and you could not be doing so at a more profoundly exciting moment,” said Peter W. May, Chairman of the Boards of Trustees of the Mount Sinai Health System. “The promise of genomics and bioinformatics will bear fruit over the next decade, utterly transforming how we understand and treat disease. And while there may be growing pains as our health care system grapples with the transition to a population health paradigm, in the long run our patients and communities will be healthier and better cared for. These changes offer unprecedented opportunities to improve health care quality, efficiency, and equity for all Americans. Graduates, I encourage you to seize these opportunities. You need only to harness the creativity and compassion that you have honed during your training here at Mount Sinai.”

About the honorees

  • Kathleen Sebelius, MPA (Doctor of Humane Letters and keynote speaker)  
    One of America’s foremost experts on national and global health issues and a public servant of great vision and integrity, Ms. Sebelius was instrumental in passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act, the most significant health reform in half a century, which provides Americans with unprecedented access to quality and affordable health care. Named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World by Forbes magazine, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. During her tenure, she worked to eliminate health disparities, introduced reforms that continue to improve the quality of care patients receive while driving down costs, and promoted strategies to accelerate the microscope-to-marketplace pipeline for new cures. She also directed the nation’s public health response to natural disasters and emerging epidemics, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the H1N1 flu outbreak. As governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009, she was the only daughter of a governor to also be elected governor in American history as well as the first woman to serve as Chair of the Democratic Governors Association. Previously, she served two terms as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner and four terms in the Kansas legislature.
  • Laurie Ann Garrett (Doctor of Humane Letters and keynote speaker)  
    An award-winning journalist and distinguished global health expert, Ms. Garrett has helped provide context and insight through her reporting on a range of global health issues, including SARS, avian flu, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola virus, among others, shaping our national understanding of the most urgent global public health crises to emerge over the past three decades.

A celebrated medical and science writer for Newsday for nearly two decades, she is the only writer to have been awarded the Peabody award, the Polk Award (twice) and the Pulitzer Prize. The Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations since 2004, her particular areas of expertise include newly emerging and re-emerging diseases, bioterrorism, and public health and its effects on foreign policy and national security. Over the course of her career, she has reported from the front lines in over thirty different epidemics. Her work has appeared in many prestigious publications, including Reuters, The Associated Press, NPR, Foreign Affairs, Esquire, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Current Issues in Public Health, among other outlets. She has also written several best-selling and award-winning books.

  • Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD (Doctor of Science)
    A family physician and renowned social epidemiologist, Dr. Jones has tirelessly examined the roles of racism and other systems of social inequity in health outcomes and advocated for systemic changes to assure the conditions for optimal health for all people. Currently the President of the American Public Health Association and a Senior Fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, her research has transformed our understanding of the impacts of racism and “race”-associated inequities on health and well-being. She continues to build on our growing understanding of "race"-associated differences in health outcomes by vigorously investigating the structural causes of these differences and proposing population-level interventions.

Prior to joining the Morehouse School of Medicine, she served as a Medical Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2000 to 2014, and was previously an Assistant Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1994 to 2000.

  • James P. Allison, PhD (Doctor of Science)
    Dr. Allison is a globally recognized immunologist, whose pioneering research on T-cell regulation led to the development of the first drug to improve survival rates in metastatic melanoma patients. A trailblazer in his field, his discoveries have helped pave the way for the widespread use of targeted immunotherapy to treat cancer. He has transformed the scientific community’s understanding of how the immune system regulates T-cell activation to initiate or inhibit immune responses. His lab identified the inhibitory checkpoint molecule CTLA-4, revealing a powerful new therapeutic target for cancer. Building on this discovery, he contributed to the development of ipilimumab, an immune-based therapy and the first FDA-approved drug shown to improve survival in metastatic melanoma. His research has subsequently led to FDA approval of several additional antibodies for the treatment of melanoma, lung, and kidney cancers.

In 2015, he received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Prior to his current position as Professor of Immunology, Chair of the Department of Immunology, and Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, he served as Professor of Immunology, Chair of the Department of Immunology and Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Previously, he spent three decades on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.  

  • Sir Marc Feldmann, MBBS, PhD, AC, FRS (Doctor of Science)
    A globally renowned immunologist, Dr. Feldmann conducted pioneering research that led to the discovery of a groundbreaking new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that has improved the quality of life for millions of patients around the world.

His investigations on key molecules in the tissues afflicted by autoimmune disease revealed the molecular mediator known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) as the key target for treatment. Together with his colleague Sir Ravinder Maini, he led several successful clinical trials with an anti-TNF antibody, which showed rapid and major benefits for patients. The effectiveness of anti-TNF antibodies has made anti-TNF the bestselling drug class since 2012, with sales of $30 billion annually. Several approved anti-TNF drugs have become the therapy of choice for stopping the inflammatory and tissue-destructive pathways not only of rheumatoid arthritis, but also other autoimmune diseases, and millions of patients worldwide have benefited from these therapies.

For his groundbreaking contributions to medicine, Dr. Feldmann was knighted in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, the Australian equivalent of a knighthood, in 2014. He has also received the Albert Lasker Award and other prestigious international prizes.  

To learn more about the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Department of Medical Education and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, visit www.icahn.mssm.edu/education.

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.