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Gov. Maura Healey to deliver 51st Commencement address at UMass Chan

Ann Kurth, president of New York Academy of Medicine; Frederick Sontag, co-founder and president of Sontag Foundation, Spring-Bay Companies and Brain Tumor Network; and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of World Health Organization, to receive honorary degrees

Gov. Maura T. Healey

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey will deliver the Commencement address and receive a Chancellor’s Medal at UMass Chan Medical School on Sunday, June 2, as UMass Chan celebrates the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 at its 51st Commencement.

Ann Kurth, PhD, RN, MPH, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, and Frederick “Rick” Sontag, MS, MBA, co-founder and president of the Sontag Foundation, the Spring-Bay Companies and the Brain Tumor Network will, upon recommendation by the University’s Board of Trustees, receive honorary degrees. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director general of the World Health Organization, will also receive an honorary degree and deliver the keynote address Friday, June 7, at 11 a.m. when UMass Chan celebrates the opening of the new education and research building.

Gov. Maura T. Healey is the 73rd governor of Massachusetts and the first woman and first LGBTQ+ person to be elected to the position. She is committed to making Massachusetts more affordable, competitive and equitable. Gov. Healey recently proposed a 10-year reauthorization of the Life Sciences Initiative, along with tax incentives and workforce training and other strategic initiatives, to strengthen the commonwealth’s position as a global leader in the health and life sciences. Her administration led the effort to be chosen to host the Investor Catalyst Hub by the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), part of the National Institutes of Health. UMass Chan is an ARPA-H partner. Gov. Healey previously served two terms as Massachusetts Attorney General. Earlier in her career, she served as a litigation partner at an international law firm. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Northeastern University School of Law and played professional basketball in Austria. She and her partner, Joanna Lydgate, live in Arlington.

Ann Kurth, PhD, RN, MPH

Ann Kurth, PhD, RN, MPH, is president of the New York  Academy of Medicine, an organization dedicated to research for health equity. She is the first epidemiologist and nurse appointed to lead the 177-year-old organization, continuing her professional commitment to eliminating barriers that prevent people from living healthy lives, including climate change and pandemics. Dr. Kurth served as dean of the Yale School of Nursing for seven years and co-founded the Yale Institute for Global Health. Her tenure included efforts to shape university-level strategies around diversity, equity and inclusion; a ‘planetary solutions’ science priority; and campus sustainability. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS, CDC, HRSA, and others, and she is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Nursing and the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Dr. Kurth has published widely—including one of the first books on HIV in women—and she currently co-chairs the National Academy of Medicine Board on Global Health.

Rick Sontag, MS, MBA

Rick Sontag, MS, MBA, is an accomplished business and nonprofit leader and persuasive advocate for patients and biomedical research. In 1994, his wife, Susan Sontag, suffered a stroke and seizures, and, shortly thereafter, was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She was given three years to live. Faced with little information and few treatment options, Rick Sontag eventually got her enrolled in a clinical trial. In light of his frustration with attempting to learn about the disease and find a course of treatment, he pledged that if given the opportunity, he would help other patients and their families facing a brain tumor diagnosis. In 2002, after selling his airplane parts manufacturing business, Rick and Susan Sontag established the Sontag Foundation to advance brain cancer research. Since then, the foundation has offered career development grants to early career scientists at nearly every major medical institution in the U.S. and Canada. In 2014 they expanded their advocacy efforts by establishing the Brain Tumor Network, which provides free, individualized support to help brain cancer patients access high quality care, overcome treatment obstacles and navigate clinical trials. Miraculously, Susan Sontag survived the disease and lived another 28 years, but her quality of life slowly degraded from the effects of the disease and the aggressive treatment to destroy it. She died in 2022. Her bravery in facing a terminal diagnosis serves as a lasting inspiration for the Sontag Foundation and the Brain Tumor Network.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, has led the World Health Organization, the world’s leading public health agency, based in Geneva, Switzerland, since 2017, where he has overseen the most significant transformation in the organization’s history. Dr. Tedros has focused the work of the organization on supporting countries in three key areas: promoting health and preventing disease; progressing toward universal health coverage; and preparing for, preventing and responding effectively to health emergencies. Upon earning a PhD in community health from the University of London, Dr. Tedros returned to his native Ethiopia to work as a malariologist before helping transform Ethiopia’s health infrastructure while serving as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs for more than a decade. He is a globally recognized and widely published health scholar, advocate and diplomat whose honors include becoming the first non-American to be awarded the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award in 2011 in recognition of his contributions to public health and being named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020.

Commencement 2024 will take place on the campus green in front of the Medical School Building, with more than 300 students from the T.H. Chan School of Medicine, the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing and the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences expected to receive degrees. The ceremony will begin promptly at noon and will be available to watch live on Facebook and YouTube.