Mount Sinai School of Medicine Commencement Honors Leaders in Discovery and Innovation

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivers keynote address at Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s 2011 commencement ceremony.

New York, NY
 – May 13, 2011 /Press Release/  –– 

Mount Sinai School of Medicine today honored U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and three scientific pioneers at its 42nd commencement ceremony held at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Senator Gillibrand also addressed the audience as commencement speaker.

The leaders in science included William Foege, MD, MPH, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Presidential Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Health at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University; Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, the president of the Institute for Systems Biology; and Jonathan M. Rothberg, PhD, the founding CEO and chairman of RainDance Technologies, Clarifi Corporation, and founder of The Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases.

This year’s commencement reflected Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s role as a world leader in translational research, and instilling a quest for discovery in its students. Mount Sinai continues to be an international leader in this area, expanding its programs by building the Center for Science and Medicine. One of few research centers opening at an academic medical center in the U.S., the Center is set to open in 2012. This new building will bring nearly a half-million square feet of state-of-the-art medical research and clinical facilities to the area; it is designed to expand Mount Sinai’s world-class research programs by about one third.

Based on the distribution of degrees, this year’s graduating class embodies Mount Sinai’s dedication to translational science, as well as medical advocacy, patient care, and the mentoring spirit that has transformed medical education. A total of 249 degrees were granted including 123 MDs, 53 PhDs, 36 MPHs, and 37 MS degrees. Nearly 60 percent of this year’s graduating class were women.

Senator Gillibrand was honored for championing the needs of New Yorkers as their United States Senator. She is renowned for establishing a culture of accountability and responsiveness in Congress.

In her address, Senator Gillibrand emphasized that the graduates are entering one of the most challenging eras the world has ever seen and the biomedical and clinical advances they make in their career are critical to propelling the nation ahead. "We will be relying on you to lead this country forward in biotechnology and cutting edge medicine, discovering the next big breakthrough in research, and unlocking cures to some of humanity’s oldest and deadliest diseases,"she said. "We need each of you not just to meet the demands of this new era, but to lead us there, and put the knowledge, skills and talents that you’ve learned at Mount Sinai toward creating a better future for America."

Dennis S. Charney, MD, Dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, challenged the graduates to lead the world’s biomedical revolution.

"Discoveries in genomics facilitated by routine, affordable sequencing of the human genome promises to usher in a new era in the understanding of human biology, and this will lead to better ways of predicting, preventing, and treating human disease,"Dr. Charney said. "As the next generation of scientists and clinicians, you must be in the vanguard of such an historic transformation in biomedical research and clinical practice. Seek to become leaders of inspiring force and the curator of the dreams of others."

Peter W. May, Chairman of the Mount Sinai Boards of Trustees, encouraged graduates to keep Mount Sinai’s philosophy of community service central in their lives and in their practice of medicine. "Seek opportunities to provide assistance, whether locally or globally, just as you have done here. Engage your scientific curiosity in the service of healing, investigating, easing pain or reviving hope. It is in giving back to those who need the expertise and compassion you offer that you will find your greatest success and inspiration,"he said.

Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, emphasized to the graduates the importance of taking the lead in fixing our health care system. "You are the generation that is going to change health care. This graduating class of physicians and scientists cannot simply accept things as they are, because deep and profound changes are already underway. For the sake of your patients and the vitality of the health care system in America, you must dream things as they can be, and ask the necessary questions that will get us there, to a bold and brighter future."

Doctor of Humane Letter degrees were given to two innovative women who are staunch advocates for raising awareness of common diseases and battling for better prevention strategies, education, and patient care:

  • United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has emerged as a leader of principle and compassion who is willing to take on the most pressing issues facing New Yorkers. She is the chief Senate sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, leading the fight to provide health care and compensation to the 80,000 9/11 first responders and nearly 30,000 survivors who are sick with diseases caused by the toxins at Ground Zero. She is the first New York Senator to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, participating in an effort to improve child nutrition and combat the epidemic of child obesity by increasing access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. She has worked tirelessly to pass significant health care-related legislation to address the country's nursing shortage, make quality autism treatment more affordable, improve asthma treatment for children, and ensure that drinking water and baby products are safe for consumers.
  • Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982 after promising her dying sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer. She is considered the most influential leader and advocate in advancing the global fight against breast cancer, giving new hope to all those lives affected by this disease. The organization has eradicated the silence and shame surrounding the disease by advocating for the political and financial support of breast cancer research, while investing more than $1.9 billion in breast cancer research, education, screening, treatment and community programs. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series is now the world's largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer. In 2009, Brinker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was named Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations' World Health Organization. 

Doctor of Science honorary degrees were given to three pioneers in discovery and innovation in global health and genetics research:

  • William Foege, MD, MPH, is a senior fellow in the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Presidential Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Health at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. A renowned epidemiologist and educator, his achievements have helped to eradicate smallpox and controlled polio, expand childhood immunization, and advance preventive medicine to improve human health around the globe. He is the former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention who also launched the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, a working group for the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the Rockefeller Foundation
  • Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, is the president of the Institute for Systems Biology, an organization that has assembled some of the world’s best scholars and in an interactive and collaborative environment. He is a pioneer in biotechnology and in the study of molecular immunology and genomics, whose research has paved the way for the successful mapping of the human genome. He is one of only 10 distinguished scientists to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering. He is now pioneering the belief that the systems approach to disease, emerging technologies, and powerful new computational and mathematical tools will move medicine from its current reactive mode to a predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory mode over the next five to 20 years.
  • Jonathan M. Rothberg, PhD, is the founding CEO and chairman of RainDance Technologies, Clarifi Corporation, and CuraGen Corporation, and founder of The Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases. Dr. Rothberg pioneered high-speed, massively parallel DNA sequencing, the first new method for sequencing genomes since 1980. He took on the challenge of finding a way to translate information from biological systems, such as the brain, chromosomes, and biochemical pathways, directly into digital information. He founded Ion TorrentTM, which links the language of chemistry and the binary language of computers, and developed the ION torrent chip, a novel semiconductor device that creates a portal between these two worlds. An innovator, entrepreneur, and inventor holding nearly 30 U.S. patents, his work has dramatically advanced the field of genomics and revolutionized the future of biomedicine.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation's best hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.

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