For the 96 members of the Class of 2009, Commencement was a day of sunshine and serious reflection on the nature and responsibilities of being a doctor.

Commencement speaker David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exhorted the graduates to engage in the debate on health care reform. “We are witnessing a crisis in the system of care, upon which we all rely as patients and without which you, and all the classes that follow you, cannot effectively apply their art and their skills,” Blumenthal said. He spoke of the rising cost of health care in the United States, and framed the current economic and political climate as an ideal moment for change as more people lose employment-based health insurance. “Timing is everything, and we are now seeing a combination of circumstances that is rare in the history of our country and of health reform.”

Blumenthal drew parallels between the Obama administration and that of President Lyndon Johnson, which enacted Medicare and Medicaid. Then as now, he said, three forces converged—a crisis in health care, a bipartisan desire to effect change, and presidential leadership on the issue. No true health care reform can take place, Blumenthal said, without the support of the nation’s young physicians, and he encouraged the graduates to stay involved in reform efforts throughout their careers. “It can make you a better physician, and it can certainly make the lives of your patients better.”

In his invocation at the ceremony in Amistad Park, Jason Frangos, M.D. ’09, described the process of moving through medical studies into the heart of doctoring. “We may look back to when we first arrived, when we first received our portions of unrefined ore,” he said. “We smelted and forged and hammered into iron in the blast heat of hard work, studying and memorizing, dissecting and discovering, listening and loving. … We hammered, tempered, and wrought into a tiny spinning needle … a compass that is our heart.”

Commencement awards
This year’s Bohmfalk Prizes for excellence in teaching went to Michael L. Schwartz, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology, for basic science; and to Frederick D. Haeseler, M.D., associate clinical professor of internal medicine and director of primary care clerkships, for clinical sciences.

Grace Y. Jenq, M.D., assistant professor of medicine (geriatrics), received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. The Leah M. Lowenstein Award went to Laura R. Ment, M.D., associate dean for admissions and financial aid and professor of pediatrics and neurology.

The Alvan R. Feinstein Award went to Robert M. Rohrbaugh, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry. Karen J. Jubanyik, M.D., assistant professor of surgery (emergency medicine), received the Francis Gilman Blake Award. The Betsy Winters House Staff Award went to Joshua Silverstein, M.D.

The Class of 2009 donated its class gift to the Mila Rainof Memorial Fund, to help those “who choose the same path we have chosen,” according to the class presidents.