Forty bright, creative, and entrepreneurial students became the second graduating class at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine on May 9. The graduates were addressed with “doctor” for the first time as they were called to be hooded and receive their diplomas.

“These students, soon-to-be medical residents, are prepared for the next step in their journey and are on track to be the kind of physician you would choose for yourself or your family,” Dr. Cynda Johnson, dean of the school, told the audience at the beginning of the ceremony.

Sanghee Suh, one of two students nominated by the class to speak at graduation, gave credit to the faculty for modeling integrity and passion in doctoring.

“Success has been redefined for me because of the faculty members who still find joy in their work,” Suh said. “They remind us to strive for impact, and not attention; to have pride in our work with an equal amount of humility; to seek integrity instead of external praise. Thank you for showing us the type of physicians we all hope to be.”

The other student speaker, Jeeshan Faridi, added thanks to family and friends for their support.

“Today is as much a celebration of your contributions to our success as it is about anything we’ve accomplished,” he said.

Asking the graduates to consider what it meant to be a physician thought leader, faculty speaker Dr. Thomas Kerkering, a professor of internal medicine, challenged them to make it a lifelong passion to serve others.

“You cannot be a leader unless you give of yourself,” he said. “Service to others is key to maintaining your undercurrent of joy, as you come to understand it is about the giving, not the receiving.”

The guest speaker for the occasion was Dr. Louis Sullivan, renowned health policy leader, minority health advocate, physician, author, and educator. For more than 40 years, Sullivan’s work has centered on eliminating health disparities, enhancing health literacy, advancing healthy behaviors, and diversifying the nation’s health professions. The founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, Sullivan also served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1989 to 1993.

Sullivan described the essential characteristics of great leaders.

“You are all leaders,” he told the class. “Medicine and other health care professions are dynamic. To be relevant in 10, 20, or 30 years means constantly learning. This is the beginning of a life of servant leadership.”

Earlier this spring, the class celebrated a 100 percent success rate in residency matches. Over the summer, most of the graduates will disperse to residencies in 18 states. Four of the 40 graduates will remain in Roanoke for either preliminary training or full residencies with Carilion Clinic.

Written by Catherine Doss