As the 106 members of the Class of 1998 received their medical degrees in May, Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., urged them to think back to the altruism that guided and propelled them as they made the decision to become doctors. “You wanted to do some good in the world,” he said, “and you were able to say those words flat out, without any embarrassment or hesitation.”

The 1998 Commencement was Dr. Kessler’s first at Yale and the first in recent memory to be conducted in pouring rain, which drove graduates and their families under a tent on Harkness Lawn. After ceremonies on the main campus, graduates followed bagpiper Glenn Pryor as he led the class along College Street to the medical school Commencement under the tent.

“This is a teacher’s dream,” said Dr. Kessler, “a last chance to exhort, challenge and inspire.” His own exhortation was that students remain true to the idealism that comes with being a healer. “You are a healer when you understand that the amount of health you can actually promote is relatively small when weighed on the scale of human mortality,” he said. “You are a healer when you throw away that scale and fight for every inch of health, against the odds, as if immortality were embedded in your fingertips. And you are a healer if you know when it’s time to quit.”

In closing, Dr. Kessler offered the graduates warm wishes for the future. “I wish you mornings of great promise,” he said, “evenings of pleasant weariness and nights filled with the sleep that comes to those who have done their best. … The most fortunate among you will be able to say, ‘I occupied some space on Earth and I did some good. I was a healer.’ ”

Before the presentation of diplomas, students and faculty received awards for work of distinction in research, education and clinical care.