Share this story

Chancellor Michael F. Collins' Convocation Speech


Let us begin where we ended.


At the conclusion of Commencement on that beautiful day in June, families and friends gathered to celebrate our graduates’ outstanding accomplishments. Joy was everywhere. Dreams had come true!

But, in one particular gathering, there was an outpouring of emotion. The future had never looked this bright. Forgotten were those days when the future did not exist and most dreams were nightmares.

James Atem, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” had first dreamt about becoming a physician when, as a child, he struggled for survival in an African refugee camp. Even though all knew prevention was the cure, he witnessed the ravages of illness.

James had to run for his life. Constantly fleeing with so many of his young boyhood friends, they ate the leaves off trees; drank from waterfalls; were attacked by warriors and lions and hid their way from one refugee camp to another.

Families were forever separated. Those who did not know how to swim drowned. Those who could not run perished.

Education proffered their only hope for a future. Learning under a tree, the first time he wrote his ABCs he scratched them out in the dirt on the ground.

But James never lost hope in his future. His academic achievement was notable. At age 23, he found a home in the United States with 4,000 other young men. Here, together they could dream about confidence in their future.

Our University helped to transform James’ life. A UMass Boston education enabled James to enter our medical school. These days and nights his dreams seemed to be coming true. Wide-eyed he wondered: Could this be happening to me?

On the approach to commencement, James was grateful: “I thank UMass for helping me to realize my dream.” Soon, he would become a resident in internal medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

As families gathered behind the tent, James’ cousins and friends snapped pictures and slapped him on the back. As I walked by, I was swept up by James’ hug and grabbed into a picture with all James’ supporters. Instantly, all those who had come to celebrate James broke out in a song of joy!

There was a tremendous end to this beginning!

Good afternoon and welcome to this year’s Convocation activities. It remains a wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to stand before you and offer greetings as we begin our new academic year. This is an auspicious beginning for an academic health sciences system that has confidence in its future.

How could we be anything but confident? We continue to attract outstanding students and transform their lives; their accomplishments bring us great pride. We celebrate the great gift that is our faculty. Our staff throughout the institution leads by their example. Our campus delivers positive economic impact throughout Central Massachusetts and our University captures the attention of our populace and the wider academy as our president leads us in telling our story. We have been most fortunate to have had our clinical partner led for over a decade by a principled, community-minded and knowledgeable CEO, John O’Brien.

There is great reason for there to be confidence in our future!

Look around us: At a time when a greater percentage of health care is being provided in outpatient settings, we have one of the finest ambulatory care centers staffed by outstanding caregivers.

In just a few months’ time, we shall cross the threshold of the Sherman Center, a tangible example of well-placed confidence in our future. While its physical surroundings will impress, we shall be most pleased that our students will have the chance to learn in inter-disciplinary teams, guided by committed faculty, with a healthy future as the focus of all their activities. Our investigators will come together as their collaborative instincts are realized and their inspirational efforts raise our expectations of what science can accomplish. When people speak of the finest new medical education and research facility in America, they will be speaking about UMass Medical School!

An invigorated collegial spirit exists throughout Commonwealth Medicine and MassBiologics of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Together, we care for and about those greatest in need of that caring, all the while fostering scientific inquiry at the leading edge.

As we begin this new academic year, share this optimism.

Yes, there is disruption and dissonance throughout our health care system and our nation. There is uncertainty about markets and politics. There is uneasiness and concern. But together, we have the opportunity to chart our future and the confidence to get it right!

Faculty Recognition

As we convene at the start of our new academic year, I would like to celebrate the many accomplishments of our faculty. This university is privileged to have in its midst dedicated and committed scholars. The heart and mind of a great university lie within its faculty. Our students are the beneficiaries of their intellect and wisdom. The broader world experiences great benefits from their scholarly works and innovative discoveries.

On our campus, collegiality and collaboration abound. For our world, the good works of our faculty are without boundary.

Over this past year, we have had the good fortune to recruit 133 outstanding faculty to our campus community. The academic and clinical accomplishments that our new faculty bring to our campus will serve us well into the future. It is a delight to welcome all who are new to our faculty.

Faculty Tenured in Academic Year 2011-2012

I am especially pleased to recognize those on our faculty who have been our colleagues and who, this academic year, have received confirmation from our university that we wish them to spend their academic careers with us.

When our university awards tenure to a faculty member, it chooses to establish a life-long academic relationship with that committed scholar. The rigorous tenure decisions, reached after much scrutiny and a most thorough process, acknowledge outstanding accomplishment in teaching, scholarship and service to our campus and the wider academic community. It is a privilege to recognize those members of our faculty who were awarded tenure this past year:

· Jeremy Luban, MD

· Beth A. McCormick, PhD

· Christopher M. Sassetti, PhD

· Francis Ka Ming Chan, PhD

· Fen-Biao Gao, PhD

· Ellen M. Gravallese, MD

· Brian Lewis, PhD

· Maryann Munson, PhD

· Allison B. Rosen, MD, MPH

· Leslie M. Shaw, PhD

Faculty Promoted to Full Professor in Academic Year 2011-2012

We are most fortunate as an academic community to benefit from the commitment and wisdom of our full professors. These scholars serve as the leaders and mentors of our younger colleagues and as role models for our students. At this time, I would like to recognize those members of the faculty who have been recently promoted to full professor:

· Linda M. Cavallero, PhD

· Paul R. Clapham, PhD

· Geri S. Fuhrmann, PsyD

· Yicktung T. Ip, PhD

· Paul D. Kaufman, PhD

· Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD

· Albertha J. Walhout, PhD

· Job Dekker, PhD

· Charles G. Sagerstrom, PhD

· Jesse N. Aronowitz, MD

· Robert T. Woodland, PhD

· Michael D. Kneeland, MD, MPH

· Neal S. Silverman, PhD

· Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD

· Anthony Valdini, MD

· Susan L. Sullivan-Bolyai, DNSC, CNS, RN

· Warren J. Ferguson, MD

· Milagros Rosal, PhD

Chancellor’s Medals

This is the third year at Convocation that I have the privilege to present the Chancellor’s Medals for Distinguished Teaching, Scholarship and Service. This year, having received consensus that we should recognize, with a “distinguished” medal, that the hands, hearts and minds of faculty caregivers are most important to the lives of their patients and our community, I shall present a fourth medal, the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence.

Again this year, the committees charged with the responsibility to receive and review nominations, were presented with a large slate of nominees. It is encouraging to witness the seriousness of purpose given to the preparation of these nominations. However, I will comment that this year, there was a paucity of nominations for women members of the faculty. I have asked the provost to work with the committees he shall establish in the coming year, as well as with the Faculty Council and Women’s Faculty Committee, to assure that we encourage greater nomination of women faculty for these recognitions.

That said, I would like to thank Provost Flotte for his continued stewardship of this process. Further, I want to recognize the work of the four committees that were established for consideration of the nominees in teaching, scholarship, clinical care and service. I had the opportunity to meet with the chairs of each of these committees so that they could bring alive for me the deliberations of their committees. For this service, I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Susan Gagliardi, chair of the committee for Distinguished Teaching; Dr. David Harlan, chair of the committee for Distinguished Scholarship; Dr. Robert Brown, chair of the committee for Distinguished Clinical Excellence; and Dr. Julia Andrieni, chair of the committee for Distinguished Service.

Each of the nominees presented to these committees has an outstanding record of accomplishments. It has become increasingly challenging to select from among those advanced. I want all nominees to know they should take great pride in being nominated and thank them for their service to our campus and the wider community. So many people, both on campus and from afar, participate in the nomination process. I want to thank them for their interest. It is so encouraging to me that our faculty are greatly appreciated and held in such high esteem. While it is not possible to acknowledge each nominee, I want to thank each committee for their thorough and thoughtful process and for sending to me such an outstanding list of nominees.

Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching

Sheldon Benjamin, MD

As education remains the hallmark of a university campus and teaching its greatest enabler, I shall again this year begin the procession of medal presentations with the Medal for Distinguished Teaching. It is a wonderful privilege to recognize an enthusiastic, gifted, outstanding, sought after teacher who is viewed as a consummate and inspiring role model and mentor. Please join me in recognizing this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching, Dr. Sheldon Benjamin!

Dr. Benjamin, you are an internationally recognized leader in psychiatric education. Viewed by all as an outstanding residency program director; an excellent clinician and role model; a mentor for junior faculty, faculty leaders who are residency directors and all trainees; many have been impacted by your gifts as an educator. Having spent more than 25 years at our institution, you have impacted the lives of so many.

You have been described as “one of the most influential and accomplished psychiatric educators in the country; a futurist” who is a thought leader and innovator. You are the creator of The Brain Card, a neuropsychiatric examination pocket reference for medical and allied health trainees and practitioners. Others have commented that your “teaching of clinical acumen . . . shines” and that “careful systematic assessment” is your “modus operandi.” You have been reported to say that neuropsychiatry’s “instrument” is the mental status exam and that you favor a “thorough assessment of arousal, orientation, attention, [and] perseverance; working, verbal, and visuospatial memory; language and paralinguistic functions, praxis, calculation, constructional ability, agnosias, right hemisphere and dysexecutive syndromes!”

Your teaching and your example are memorable. Your curiosity and commitment have earned our respect.

You have been recognized numerous times on our campus, in our commonwealth and across the nation for your teaching. You have risen to the ranks of leadership within your specialty and all the while, you have maintained your humility, your humor and your humanity. Having both written and answered students’ questions for years, you have excelled as an accessible mentor to students and faculty alike.

Sheldon, in recognition for your outstanding commitment to the education of so many who have been your students, it is my privilege to invite you to present this year’s campus-wide Last Lecture, a celebration of education that we have established to recognize the importance of teaching in all that we do. It will be a privilege for all of us on campus to benefit from your intellect and become your students!

Please accept my congratulations as this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching!

Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship

Roger J. Davis, PhD

At our University, scholarship holds a special place. The accomplishments of our faculty are replete with honors and recognition because of the esteem in which their scholarship is held. We are fortunate that the collaboration that exists throughout our faculty leads to exponential productivity amidst the fostering of a community of scholars. Given this spirit that exists, it is most difficult to select one individual from among the many who are making such distinguished contributions to scientific discovery. However, given the extraordinary contributions that one can make to the body of scientific knowledge, the impact one can influence across disciplines and the acclaim that one can bring to our institution, it is a distinct privilege to recognize this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship, Dr. Roger Davis.

Dr. Davis, for nearly three decades your scholarship has flourished on our campus. Coming to our University as a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell post-doctoral fellow, you quickly established a vigorous independent research program pursuing studies of growth factor receptor structure and downstream signaling mechanisms. You have made seminal discoveries of components and mechanisms of the Map kinase signaling pathway that is essential in mediating cellular responses to growth factors and hormonal stimuli. Further, your discovery of a novel Map kinase related protein identified key roles for these enzymes in the development of diabetes and insulin resistance and in the function of the immune system, and led you to be among the most cited scientists in the world from 1995-1996 to this date.

A model scientific citizen, you have developed many of the reagents that have become important to scientists around the world as they study Map kinase pathways. Appointed an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1990, you are one of the longest serving among this group of scientific luminaries. Accorded the highest scientific honor of your native Great Britain, you were elected to The Royal Society in 2002.

Our University recognizes that you are among a select few who have risen through the ranks of the faculty to become a scholar of international repute, serving on numerous advisory and editorial boards, all the while remaining true to our institution.

Roger, it is a great privilege to invite you to present the keynote address at this year’s Research Retreat, a fitting recognition for the recipient of this honor.

Please accept my congratulations as this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship!

Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence

Oscar Starobin, MD

The newest of the chancellor’s medals, the medal for clinical excellence, is based on the candidate’s excellence in clinical care during the period of the nominee’s association with our institution. Candidates for this medal should have a substantial record of clinical practice during their faculty careers, be it in medicine or nursing, and serve as role models for peers, residents, and students in their provision of quality clinical care and in their interactions with all members of the health care team. Candidates should be leaders in their communication and professional skills and be known for their humanism and advocacy for their patients. Nominees should take a scholarly approach to clinical care and through their activities, should have made a demonstrable, substantial and long-lasting contribution to improvements in clinical care in the candidate’s discipline.

The first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence is a tireless, dedicated, beloved and highly respected clinician educator with a remarkable record for clinical and educational service to our institution, Dr. Oscar Starobin.

Dr. Starobin, you have commented on the influence that many caring physicians have had on your life. In the image of Dr. Francis Peabody, you have always espoused his precept that “the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient!” Influenced as a trainee of Dr. Paul Dudley White, your patients speak of the kindness and caring you have shown them throughout a most distinguished career as a clinical cardiologist. When you came to Worcester following your training at the Massachusetts General Hospital, you received advice from the Jackson Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Bauer. You were told: “Starobin, you are very good at taking care of sick patients, and you should continue to do so. You should begin your practice and academic life as you would like to conclude it.” Your lifelong commitment to clinical excellence was foretold in those words!

As you began your clinical practice, our school was not yet founded. You became the physician-to-see in central Massachusetts. Throughout your storied career you have served as the chief of cardiology at every major hospital in Worcester. Widely regarded as a clinical expert in the unique niche of congenital heart disease in adults, at UMass you have been accorded the much deserved recognition as a clinician educator, receiving numerous awards as an outstanding teacher. Yet, it is the respect and admiration you show to and receive from your patients and colleagues that are the hallmark of your distinguished career.

Had Norman Rockwell had the chance to know you, I am certain that you could have served as the model for one of his paintings of doctors. Ever attentive to the needs of your patients and mindful of the desire to learn that is embodied in the determination of your students, residents and faculty colleagues, you have lived a life that is a model, which all of us who admire you can follow.

Oscar, it is a great privilege to invite you to address our first-year students and their families next year at their White Coat Ceremony. This is a fitting recognition for one who has worn the white coat with dignity while recognizing the privilege in doing so.

Please accept my congratulations as the inaugural recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence.

Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service

Daniel H. Lasser, MD, MPH

Making demonstrable, substantial and long lasting contributions to our campus community and beyond is an exemplary commitment made by so many of our faculty. It is fitting then, that we recognize a career-long commitment of service when we celebrate the legacy of our faculty and in this instance, one faculty member who has received the acclaim of others through a commitment to such a high ideal. Please join me in recognizing this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service, Dr. Daniel Lasser.

Dr. Lasser, your contributions to our medical school and clinical system are extraordinary. You have had a sentinel influence on our school’s standing as one of the foremost primary care institutions in our nation. Consistently, you have made a steadfast commitment to the care of the underserved and underinsured, raising a clarion call on behalf of our profession to serve the needs of the vulnerable in our society. You are held in high esteem by our colleagues as you are known for your resolve to collaborate and advocate, especially when the focus of such efforts is on those in need.

You are loyal, dedicated and respected. You have served in many roles. Best known as chair of our Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, you have served also as professor, associate dean, senior vice president, interim president and interim senior associate dean; your legacy of service has touched every facet of our academic health sciences system and Commonwealth Medicine. You have served on boards, review teams, as a clinician, educator, community health center advocate, consultant, program director and as a commissioned officer.

Described as “low-key, gently probing and of unpretentious manner” you have proven “to be a consummate representative and advocate for primary care and for our broader organization.” You have assisted our entities as well as those throughout our commonwealth and our nation, all the while bringing distinction to our campus and attention to the needs of the underprivileged among us. You have brought vision and advocacy to an art form while bringing passion to community based and inter-disciplinary care.

Dan, it is my privilege to invite you to carry the mace at formal university functions throughout the year. As the standard bearer for our faculty, this position of prominence is well deserved for one who has given such outstanding service to our university and academic health sciences system throughout a distinguished career.

Please accept my congratulations as this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service.

Exuding Confidence in Our Future

Bolstered by the confidence that emanates from the example of our medal recipients, we welcome the beginning of our academic year. While every year is important, this year will be especially so. As demonstrated by the posters that are positioned across campus, this is the final year of our academic health science system strategic plan that boldly we established in the 2007-2008 academic year. This year we must confidently chart our future course.

Look at all that we have accomplished over the past five years. Our health care system made important strides in preparing for a redesigned health care system of the future. Our new curricula were created and implemented. Outstanding faculty in great numbers were recruited. New buildings were completed and constructed. Our nursing and medical schools were accredited. We obtained a CTSA award. We were fiscally sound. The reputation of our campus and university soared. Clearly, we delivered global impact. Collectively, we have created important advances in enhancing our mission.

But, as we face the future it is a clamorous time in health care. In fact, the claims are deafening: costs are too high; care is disjointed; we don’t educate enough primary care practitioners; transparency is lacking; Medicare and Medicaid are unsustainable in their current forms; preventive health care measures are inadequate; chronic diseases are too prevalent; research takes too long and is too expensive; and on it goes.

It seems I have had a paragraph about those points in each speech I have given over the past six years. There is a thread of truth to each of these assertions; that we cannot deny. But, as we face the future and plan for it, we must take actions to address each of these important issues and do so, mindful that we can make a profound impact as a thought leader in medical education, research and patient care.

Disruption in Health Care

Throughout this year we will need to give careful consideration as to how we shall approach the future. In the next iteration of our strategic planning efforts, we will need to face the disruption that is in progress in health care and offer our response to it.

Think about disruptive innovations for a moment:

Who could have imagined that the Encyclopedia Britannica could have been replaced by a disc called Encarta, then an engine propelled without fuel called Google? No one could have predicted the unlimited potential possessed by a JetBlue as it displaced major icons like United, American, Delta and US Airways and now, offers hope of bringing air travel back to Worcester? Around the time we began to conceive the work on the last strategic plan in 2007, Steve Jobs was introducing the iPhone! Could we imagine life today without it?

These disruptions displaced much better known products. How will such disruptions impact academic health sciences systems? While we cannot predict the future, we can and must prepare for it.

Innovation is the lifeblood of the new economy and the hallmark of educational institutions. Our faculty is creative. We are the only medical school with a Commonwealth Medicine or MassBiologics. We are well poised to create the future.

Let’s think about some of the challenges before us:

Online education is transforming higher education. Online courses are available to those who want to learn, when they want to learn and without the accoutrements of athletics, dorm living and high prices. Yet, online education has yet to exert a major impact on medical and nursing education. Will that continue to be the case?

When my generation learned how to do physical exams and procedures, and as we approached our first resuscitation attempts, patients were our teachers. Today, simulators, computer-assisted technology and models serve this purpose. We know that clinical care is most expensive in academic health science systems like ours. Will the educational model change so that students can learn more efficiently in non-patient care settings and utilize yet to be discovered technologies to assist in their education? If so, can that disruption be applied to lower the costs in academic health care settings?

When, as a third year student, I admitted my first patient for surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, their stay in the hospital was almost seven days. The next year, I can remember hearing about a laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedure, being done in Vermont, where patients could be discharged the next day. This seemed unbelievable! Thirty years later, such a patient is in and out of the hospital in less than seven hours. Every one of us could cite hundreds of such examples and in so doing demonstrate how disruptive innovation has impacted patient care for the better.

Now, as we incorporate as best practice a myriad of cutting edge health care technologies, we embrace the need to significantly reduce the cost of the care that we provide. This is the reality of our future. It does no good to shy away from that reality, as disconcerting as it may seem.

Confidence in Planning for Our Future

In every academic health sciences system in America, there are schools, health systems and practice plans. Many have close association with health plans. While the organization of the boxes may differ, the fundamental structures remain the same. We represent the highest cost entities within the health care system; we care for the sickest patients; we educate tomorrow’s clinicians; and we innovate and discover therapies and cures for our patients. Yet, today we find ourselves in the crosshairs of tiered health plans; lower cost community-based entities and insurers; and single service providers.

Change is upon us. In providing a construct for the creation of a strategic plan at Dartmouth College, Dr. Vijay Govindarajan, the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, observed that the Dartmouth community must manage the present, selectively forget the past and create the future. He has exhorted Dartmouth to “think big; start slow; scale up fast as [they] test hypotheses always focusing on one little thing at a time.” This is an excellent template as we undertake our strategic planning efforts.

It may be tempting for us to try to design our future by starting with a clean sheet of paper. But, we have the elements of success here around us. Clearly, we have the opportunity to think big. Look at what we have accomplished over the past five years. We came together and recognized what we needed to do to build a successful future. We possess the people, curricula, facilities and relationships needed to foster that success.

We have not been as good at selectively forgetting the past. I would submit that this may be a great challenge as we look to creating the future. Dr. Govindarajan makes the point that organizations have roots and that these roots are essential to their growth. But, organizations also have chains to the past, and these chains hinder the ability of the organization to create the future.

Our roots are grounded in a solid commitment to the education of those entrusted to our faculty in fulfillment of the needs of the commonwealth, the nation and beyond. Further, our actions are embedded in our community as we accept the responsibility to care for and about over 1.2 million people who reside in and traverse our service area, as well as those who travel to see our faculty as they seek the care they need.

Our chains are reflected in the desire by some to cling to shreds of history. Dr. Govindarajan comments that an organization must be willing to “unlearn” if it is committed to learning; that “unlearning” is essential to the learning that creates the future. Irrespective of the corporate boxes that some would like to define us, a true and integrated academic health sciences system partnership into the future is our only road to success. If we remain tethered by the chains that bind us to our history, our ability to adapt to the future will be strictly limited.

The relationships of the entities within academic health sciences systems in the future are yet to be defined. My prediction is that it matters not whether the boxes are drawn like an org chart or reflect the matrix that is the reality of those relationships. What will define success in the future is the ability of the organizations within the academic health sciences systems to adapt to change and to take the steps necessary to integrate, collaborate and cooperate in order to make those adaptations consistently and conscientiously. Our mission depends on it!

As we look to the future, we will need to carefully assess our educational, research and clinical service offerings and gauge how we can best adapt to the changes that are before us. The strategic planning exercise that we need to undertake should result in the development of a coordinated strategic plan for our academic health sciences system. This effort will require the active involvement of the department chairs and medical school leaders; the administrative teams of the school, the clinical system, and the medical group; as well as leaders from the governance structures of our respective institutions. The collegial relationships we have developed throughout the past five years afford us the opportunity to continue to foster the goodwill of all with whom we interact.

For all our programs, we need to assess our asset footprint and geographic reach. We will need to evaluate our five-year capital and operating plans and understand more clearly our educational impact, research potential, clinical reach and revenue sources. Difficult choices will need to be made: what we choose not to undertake may be as important as what we decide to pursue. We will need to be creatively selective to provide a clear distinction and differentiation of our academic health sciences system.

Creating the Future

As we manage the present and selectively forget the past, we will be creating the future.

That future will be bright.

We must remember that our example is forever emblazoned in the memories of those with whom we interact. As role models, our students and residents follow our example. As innovators, the world adopts our techniques and discoveries. As caregivers, our patients emulate and benefit from the standards we set.

Just over a year ago I received an email from a recent graduate. She confirmed these impressions:

“I wanted to share with you a short story and tell you how something that [was] said during graduation weekend really impacted me. My first month, I started out with Heme/Onc wards . . . I took care of a complicated patient who ultimately died of her disease. I got to know her well, as well as the close friends and family that came to visit . . . . One day, I came in on morning pre-rounds and she looked awful . . . . Ultimately, she went to the ICU . . . and she passed away within hours. Despite seeing it coming, I was devastated. I had spent six long days caring for this patient . . . . Her hospital course turned for the worse very rapidly . . . . I was feeling responsible . . . . After talking it over with different people, I remembered something [that was] said at graduation weekend. About how as doctors we cannot always cure people; that sometimes the disease burden is above what medicine we have to offer. But, when that is the case, how as physicians, we still can hold our patient’s hand, and walk with them and their family on their journey to the end and help them to be as comfortable as possible . . . . In difficult situations, I think about this and it eases the challenge . . . I just wanted to share this with you, because my education at UMass meant a lot to me.”

At the beginning of her residency, it was the end of medical school that profoundly impacted this student.

Ours is a high calling!

When it comes to the education we provide, we must traverse the cusp of innovation as the needs of our students, their patients and the discoveries of our graduates require us to do so. In the example of Sheldon Benjamin, we find our model.

When it comes to the research that is conducted in our laboratories and on our wards, we must remember that research brings hope and can bring change to the human condition. In the accomplishments of Roger Davis, we find our prototype.

When it comes to the care we provide, the patient must remain, hand-held, always at the center of our efforts. In the life of Oscar Starobin, we find our exemplary.

When it comes to the service we provide our communities and beyond, our efforts must be selfless and mindful of those most in need. In the instance of Daniel Lasser, we find our ideal.

As we reinvigorate our planning efforts this year, the leadership we need to create a successful future exists within our midst. As we begin, with your assistance we can direct our efforts to a most desired end.

Following last year’s White Coat Ceremony, the event’s organizers received the following thank you from a student who had requested that her grandmother, with the advances of Alzheimer’s disease, be allowed to present her with her white coat. “I am writing to tell you how grateful I am, if possible, more now than then, for everything you did to allow my grandmother to participate in the White Coat Ceremony. As the grandchild with the strongest bond to my grandmother, I was very much unprepared for the progression of her disease . . . [Shortly after the ceremony] she returned to the West Coast, with moments of clarity that included knowing that not only had she put my white coat on, but she “wore high heels, not old lady shoes.” Until a few weeks ago, she knew who I was only because of her excitement about being involved in the ceremony and having a granddaughter in medical school. Now, only a year after her diagnosis, she has, well, regressed . . . . None of us are who we should be to her . . . . For the rest of my life I will never forget that my last true visit with the grandmother I have always known and loved was the weekend of the White Coat Ceremony . . . that memory . . . will be with me forever.”

The words of our students and the accomplishments of our faculty have helped me to shape my thoughts as we begin this academic year.

Each of their stories was about the beginning and the end. They can inspire us to focus on our mission as we create our future.

We help our students to realize their dreams. We mentor students and faculty as we maintain fidelity to our mission. Each and every day we touch the lives of so many.

Together! We should have confidence in our future!

We can deal with and adapt to disruption. We can bypass dissonance. We can differentiate and bring distinctiveness to our curricula, research, care and service.

As we begin this academic year, let us come together to create our future.

That would be a great beginning, with even a better end!