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The wide reach of healthcare and its impact on people's lives were reflected in the words of the speakers who inspired the graduates to go out into the world and make a difference. The speeches are excerpted below.

College of Physicians & Surgeons
Jimmy Breslin: Journalist and Author
Along with medical care, you must give political care. You must be heard. You must let your opinions be felt by the politics of today because the tone of your city and country sets the tone for your patients. There are 41 million Americans who have no medical coverage and the person without healthcare coverage who gets sick can die waiting on line. Health is the first domestic issue on the minds of the people of this country. Common sense dictates that you must be into political movements. Listen to the sounds of the times in which you live.


School of Dental and Oral Surgery
Lawrence Tabak: Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Your armamentarium will soon be expanded to include stem cells. To restore a bone defect, the stem cell will replicate in a wound, create millions of new bone cells and heal the fracture or defect rapidly and completely. Two recent studies have discovered a novel source of adult stem cells – dental pulp. One could envision a day when the tooth fairy deposits your "baby" teeth to a bank for your use in later life. NIDCR is committed to empowering you to take full advantage of your unique front-line role in the health care community. The key [to your future] is perhaps best summed up in the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss: Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to great places! You're off and away! You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself, any direction you choose.


Programs in Occupational Therapy
Lauren Manning: World Trade Center Survivor
Hit by a wall of fire in the north tower on 9/11, Ms. Manning was burned over 80 percent of her body. She survived to face hours of daily therapy in the months and years ahead.
I received intensive occupational therapy three hours every morning, followed by an afternoon of rigorous physical therapy. Those were dreadfully hard days, but they were laced with happiness, thanks to the wonderfully supportive people who cared for me, who wiped the tears away, made me laugh, made me dance, and helped me remember the joy of being alive. I have learned enough to know that you have chosen a noble field and that you will have the chance to make a profound contribution to countless people's lives.


Mailman School of Public Health
Antonia C. Novello: Commissioner, New York State Department of Health and Former U.S. Surgeon General
I believe there is no more noble mission than public health. One death is a tragedy but 1 million deaths is a statistic, said Josef Stalin. If you only deal with statistics, they have a way of numbing the heart and keeping us in denial. Remember the true purpose of education is not the accumulation of facts but training of the mind…a lifelong quest of learning and caring and, above all, questioning. Set goals for yourself. If you don't know where you are going, you are already there. The world owes you nothing. The test of making a life is how much you give.


Ben-Gurion University of the Negev M.D. Program in International Health and Medicine in collaboration with Health Sciences Dickson Despommier: Professor of Microbiology at P&S and of Environmental Health Sciences at Mailman
Dr. Despommier spoke at the second ceremony this year for these graduates. The first ceremony was held in Israel.

You now have the chance to go out and change the world. You have it in you to do that. You have had a marvelous beginning experience that is beyond that of the traditional medical student. You've established a oneness with the patient. Go out and be as great as you want to be.


School of Nursing
Herbert and Florence Irving: Philanthropists
Mr. Irving: When I arrived here today I was the only man in a room full of women, which made me nervous. Then they told me that I wasn't the only man here; Herb Pardes was here too. I became more nervous because every time I see him it costs me more money… But when you get to be in your mid-80s, it's good to be affiliated with a major hospital.

Rhetaugh Dumas: Dean Emerita
University of Michigan School of Nursing
Growing up [in Natchez, Miss.], my mother's ambition was to become a "trained nurse." However, when she graduated from high school, there were no nursing schools in the vicinity that admitted Negroes and my grandmother, then a single parent, could not afford to send her away … Having to abandon her ambition to be a nurse, my mother vowed that her first girl child would be a nurse … From infancy, I was told that when I grew up I was going to be a nurse, not just an ordinary nurse, mind you, but one who would be admired by people all around the country – not only for her personal achievements, but more importantly for her contributions toward improving the welfare of others.

Thoraya Obaid: Executive Director
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
At UNFPA, one of our top goals is safe motherhood. And midwives have a key role to play. As home to the nation's oldest, continuous program for nurse midwives, the Columbia University School of Nursing has set the standard in this important field. Around the world, there is an urgent need for greater skilled attendance at birth and greater access to emergency obstetric care. One woman dies every minute, half a million women a year. Of all health indicators, it is maternal mortality that shows the largest gap between rich and poor nations. Tonight, as you receive your diplomas and you begin the next phase of your lives, I ask you to keep sight of your dreams for a better world.

P&S School of Nursing
Mailman School of Public Health
Morningside Commencement
School of Dental and Oral Surgery


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