The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences hosted the 6th Annual Masters Commencement Ceremony last Friday, June 23rd. The ceremony honored the Class of 2023’s accomplishments throughout their academic careers, the resilience they’ve shown in completing their programs, and their future endeavors.
Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Dean of Academic Affairs and Chief Scientific Office, opened the ceremony with his remarks. He emphasized the need for “digital well-being” and spoke about how we must reduce the stress placed on young people today. He also spoke about community building and equal access to mental health care for all people. Dr. Nestler is confident that the students in this graduating class are going to address these issues and make noticeable changes. His energetic speech was an impressive start to the ceremony.
Talia Swartz, MD, PhD, introduced guest speaker and honorary degree recipient, Carlos del Rio, MD, Interim Dean for the Emory University School of Medicine and Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He is also Professor of Global Health in the Department of Global Health and Professor of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health. His inspirational speech reflected the journey he has taken both personally and professionally. Dr. del Rio was inspired to study epidemiology during the onset of the AIDS epidemic and spoke about current issues facing our nation today, including gun violence, opioid addiction, and misinformation. His dedication and passion for what he does was palpable to everyone in attendance.
Student speaker Tina Aswani-Omprakash, MPH, spoke about her Crohn’s disease diagnosis and how she joined a clinical trial at Mount Sinai that helped get her condition into remission. She said that her experiences created a thirst for a new career path, so she left her finance career and applied for the Master of Public Health program at Mount Sinai. She was inspired to take up patient advocacy work to reduce the stigma of this debilitating disease. Tina enjoyed the ability to study diverse patient experiences and broader mental health challenges related to Crohn’s disease. She worked with a number of gastrointestinal (GI) physicians and patient advocates to create the non-profit organization the South Asian Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Alliance. She conducted a needs assessment looking at unmet needs in the South Asian IBD community. The objective was to write a grant to help fund a major educational event to emphasize cultural competence in a community that historically did not suffer from this disease. She raised $350,000 with her grant to host a health equity education event at the largest GI conference in the world. She now works at Mount Sinai’s division of Gastroenterology, where she just launched a study to look at drug response and predict flare ups from various diseases. Tina’s remarks were incredibly moving and she received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The next speaker was Marta Filizola, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School, who congratulated our students on completing their Master’s degrees. She also stressed how important support is for our students; the assistance and reassurance provided by faculty, family, friends, and peers undoubtedly contributed to their success. Dr. Filizola reminded students that they have been given the knowledge to prepare for some of the greatest challenges their fields have ever seen. She also remarked on how the diversity present in our graduating study contributed to the exceptional experience at our institution. Dr. Filizola believes that diverse opinions in science, research, and health care are critical, and the various backgrounds of our student population have broadened our perspectives for the better.
The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences granted degrees to 223 students across eight programs. Students from several programs received recognition for their achievements. We’re excited for these students to use their degrees to make an impact in their respective fields and change the world in positive ways. For more information about the ceremony, read the 2023 Commencement Ceremony program. Congrats to the class of 2023!