KGI Graduates its Largest Class at 12th Annual Commencement Ceremony
Featured Speaker Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall offers the Class of 2013 'congratulations, a caution and a call to action'
As the featured speaker at KGI's 12th Commencement, Dr. Freda-Lewis Hall sent the Class of 2013 off to pursue their careers in the life sciences with "congratulations, a caution and a call to action." During her inspirational speech, Pfizer's chief medical officer and executive vice president, drew from personal experience, stating how she had known she wanted to be a doctor since she was six years old; although as a "young black girl in the 1960's raising her hand to say (she) wanted to be a physician was not a trivial feat." She said she was able to accomplish such a feat because she had "parents who believed (she) could fly and made sacrifice after sacrifice to give her wings."
Dr. Lewis-Hall then spoke about how her parents had two very different health outcomes. Her father, who is 94 and only a few generations out of slavery, had lived long enough to meet the first black president of the United States, while her mother had been died of a stroke her freshmen year of medical school. In thinking about the contrast between health outcomes for her parents, Dr. Lewis-Hall said she often reflected not only on the progress that we've made in health care, or that we know we will make, but the progress we have not made-those missed opportunities.
"Do not let the unfinished business of health care remain unfinished in your hands," she cautioned the graduates.
As the call to action she encouraged the graduates to bring disruptive thinking to each and every dimension of health care- not only to biomedical breakthroughs but also to the "less obvious areas of opportunity and need," such as prevention and wellness, healthcare access, health insurance and finance and public health.
Her parents taught her, she said, that legacy is measured by three things: what you leave behind, who you bring behind, and what you've learned along the way.
"Let me ask that you seek to leave these things behind," Dr. Lewis-Hall said, "a healthcare system that offers hope, dignity and access to billions and billions more people around the world. You can bring behind a new generation of life sciences innovators, just as yourselves, focused on disruptive thinking and transformational change. And, along the way, you'll learn that your biggest contribution to the world will be giving more opportunity to people to change it. It's a noble challenge, and it's one that I hope becomes not your life's job, but you life's work."
Student speaker Ujval Kondragunta, MBS '13, spoke of the ability to work effectively in a team as being perhaps the most valuable of the many skills that KGI students acquired or polished and described KGI as an "environment where teamwork thrives, where it is actually practiced and valued, not merely talked about, a place where people from a variety of backgrounds and goals each bring their own expertise to reach a common goal."
Other student speakers included Andrew Vo, MBS '13, president of the Class of 2013, and Karishma Dagar, MBS '13, chair of the 2013 Class Gift, who presented KGI with a plaque inscribed with its institutional values. KGI President Sheldon Schuster also presented Dr. Angelika Niemz with the inaugural Henry E. Riggs Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award, which comes with a cash prize of $5,000, was given to Dr. Niemz in recognition of her strong commitment to educational innovation and her pioneering use of flipping-the-classroom teaching pedagogies.
Ryan Peeler, MBS '04, who co-founded a company with a proprietary data research system that can map entire scientific communities for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and who was recently featured in the Orange County Register's "40 Under 40" annual list of OC's most impressive young entrepreneurs, executives and professionals was the alumni speaker. He urged the graduates to become active participants of the alumni community and to always be "ready to help or be helped by someone who walked these halls with you."
Finally, President Schuster closed the ceremony with a promise to the Class of 2013: "We also promise to be here for you in your ups and downs because together we will have ups and downs as well; because being entrepreneurial and innovative is defined by travelling new paths where the future is unknowable but likely to be perilous. But as you succeed so do we... our past and our futures are linked, and I am very proud that is so."
By the numbers
- As of May 18, KGI has awarded 567 degrees/certificates.
- KGI graduated a record 104 graduates in the 2012-2013 academic year.
- KGI has awarded 449 Masters of Bioscience.
- Five PhDs were awarded at Commencement 2013 (the previous high was two) for a total of 10 PhD graduates.
- There were 18 Postdoctoral Professional Masters (PPM) degrees announced at Commencement. This was double last year's total of 9 and represents nearly half of the total number of 37 PPMs granted.
Out of 104 graduates in the Class of 2013, 32 were international students (just over 30%). International graduates came from the following countries:
- United Kingdom