Commencement was a day of mixed emotions for graduates in the Class of 2008. As they celebrated their own passage from students to physicians, they also mourned the loss of their classmate Mila Rainof, who died on April 20 after being struck by a car. (See related story, “A student's warm heart and ‘amazing’ smile.”).

Rainof’s absence was palpable throughout the day’s events. As the medical and public health students marched to Old Campus, each left a carnation at the site of the accident at York Street and South Frontage Road. During the ceremony on Harkness Lawn, Merle Waxman, M.A., associate dean, ombudsperson and director of the Office of Women in Medicine, accepted Rainof’s posthumous medical degree. And the class gift was a donation to a scholarship fund in Rainof’s memory.

Maggie Samuels-Kalow and Ellen House took the podium to offer their reflections. They recalled Rainof’s commitment to her friends and patients as well as her seemingly boundless warmth and compassion. Samuels-Kalow urged her classmates to find other ways to remember Rainof. “We honor her memory in less tangible ways, in the ways we treat each other and our patients,” she said.

“Let’s celebrate today, as Mila would have wanted us to,” said House. Commencement speaker Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D., offered as inspiration his own life story, recounting how he packed his few possessions into a bag 20 years ago and, with $65 to his name, crossed the border illegally from Mexico to California. The same hands that now probe “the most beautiful organ in the human body—the brain” were once bloody and raw from pulling weeds on the farms of the San Joaquin Valley. After an industrial accident almost killed him, Quiñones-Hinojosa’s father told him, “You have been given a gift. Life is short.”

Quiñones-Hinojosa went on to graduate from a California community college and Harvard Medical School. While at Harvard he became a U.S. citizen. He is now a neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. For the full text of the address, visit The American Dream.

Commencement awards

This year’s Bohmfalk Prizes for excellence in teaching went to Leigh V. Evans, M.D., HS ’02, assistant professor of surgery (emergency medicine), for clinical sciences, and to Aldo J. Peixoto, M.D., associate professor of medicine (nephrology), for basic science.

Thomas P. Duffy, M.D., professor of medicine (hematology), received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. The Leah M. Lowenstein Awards went to Nina Horowitz, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgery, and to Andres S. Martin, M.D., M.P.H. ’02, associate professor in the Child Study Center and of psychiatry.

Eve R. Colson, M.D. ’89, associate professor of pediatrics, received the Alvan R. Feinstein Award. Lynn D. Wilson, M.D., M.P.H. ’86, professor of therapeutic radiology and of dermatology, received the Francis Gilman Blake Award. And the Betsy Winters House Staff Award went to Vikram Reddy, M.D.