I always look forward to each year’s commencement exercises. They are profound ceremonies that connect the past, present, and future.
The ACPHS students who received their diplomas on May 16 and 17 joined previous generations of graduates in an unbroken line that goes back to our founding in 1881.
These generations have graduated during times of prosperity and of need. They have graduated during times of war and of peace. They have seen periods of stability and periods of change.
This year’s graduates will be faced with their own set of challenges as they set off on their career paths. Yet, they will always be connected to past and future alumni by the common bond of the ACPHS educational experience.
My first commencement ceremonies as President of ACPHS were particularly meaningful to me. Yet for the students, commencement can feel a little anti-climactic. I suspect that some of the 291 members of the Class of 2015 (233 in Albany, 58 in Colchester) may have felt this way. After all, by the time the ceremony arrives, the graduates have taken numerous exams, written many reports, performed countless experiments, and generally worked very, very hard.
With these challenges now behind them, there are no more hurdles left. The only thing remaining for them is to walk across the stage and pick up their diploma.
But for many people – myself included – this day is not simply a footnote to a college career. Each student has family, friends, faculty, and others who have supported them through the years.
This group of individuals has worked quietly in the background to help these graduates accomplish their goals and live out their life’s dreams.
So while commencement is noteworthy for the student, it may be even more special for their support network. It is important for graduates to recognize this fact (as I’m sure most do), and let these individuals know how much they appreciate their support through the years.
But the graduate’s responsibilities do not end there.
Students leaving our college community today and in the coming years have the good fortune of entering a world undergoing historic changes in the basic sciences, life sciences industry, and the health care system. These changes are reshaping traditional roles and creating exciting new career possibilities.
Against this backdrop, we are seeing the emergence of an interesting push-and-pull of two opposing forces. On one side, there is the imperative to expand healthcare access for a broader population. On the other side, there is an increased focus towards a more personalized approach to patient care.
Together these contrasting forces are driving us toward a more patient-centric world of healthcare.
This year’s graduates and those still enrolled at the College will be part of the generation who resolves and reconciles these opposing trends. I am confident that they will leave here with the knowledge and ability to do so. But it is equally imperative that they have the resolve to do so, as they have an obligation to be part of this dialogue.
Our degree programs are not just a series of abstract academic exercises. There is a purpose to the rigor. It comes with an expectation.
To our current students, understand that when you leave ACPHS, you will possess something more than a diploma. You will have the ability to help those around you live healthier and happier lives.
And while this talent is undeniably a gift, it is more than that. It is a responsibility. And it will ultimately be up to you to make the most of it. I have no doubt that’s exactly what you will do.