Pfizer CEO Addresses Class of 2022 School of Medicine Graduates
Ceremony is Held in Person for First Time in Two Years
The School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2022 celebrated receiving their medical degrees, after four years of hard work and tremendous resiliency in the face of a worldwide pandemic, on May 26, under a tent behind Sunshine Cottage, with friends and family in attendance, as Commencement returned to an in-person setting for the first time in two years. The SOM welcomed Albert Bourla, D.V.M., Ph.D., chair and chief executive officer of Pfizer, as their keynote speaker. Dr. Bourla has received many accolades for his work leading Pfizer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the creation of a vaccine in record time played a key role in controlling the pandemic and saving countless lives.
Graduation day opened with an awards ceremony at which SOM students were recognized with College and departmental awards for their academic excellence, service to the New York Medical College (NYMC) community and their compassion and humanism. Members of the Student Senate also paid tribute to faculty and administration for their teaching and mentoring of the Class of 2022 during their time at NYMC.
The SOM commencement ceremony began with much excitement and anticipation, as the procession was led by the ceremonial mace bearer, Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and anatomy, and the Grand Marshal of the commencement, Karen Murray, M.D. ’99, associate dean for admissions for the SOM and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
The NYMC acapella group, the Arrythmias, opened the ceremony with the singing of the National Anthem, followed by the invocation given by Rabbi Moshe Krupka, M.S., executive vice president of Touro University, and opening remarks by Joseph Mark, chair of the Board of Trustees.
“Your academic achievements, dedication and desire to make the world a better place may bring you to some far-off, wonderful places, but we hope you always remain close in heart and in spirit to NYMC,” said Mr. Mark.
“Today our hearts are filled with pride and joy as we gaze upon you, the graduates, and grasp the talent, scholarship, achievement and promise that you represent,” Rabbi Krupka said.
The student speaker for the ceremony, Rebecca Nguyen, M.D., in the Class of 2022, spoke about the importance of having people by one’s side when progressing through medical school, whether that be encouragement by friends or fellow classmates lifting each other up.
“Thank you for pulling us away from our computers when we desperately needed a break. Thank you for loving us,” said Dr. Nguyen. “Thank you for all the late-night phone calls when we broke down and said, I don't think I can do this and you said, ‘I know you can.’ This is a moment for you to say, ‘I told you so.’”
“I want to thank my classmates for making so many difficult experiences more bearable through your knowledge, your kindness and your memes,” she said. “I invite you to take a deep breath, look around you and take this moment for yourself.”
Alan Kadish, M.D., president of Touro University, offered words of encouragement to the graduates, saying that their unique experience in medical school during the pandemic will help them in the uncertainties that may come their way during their career.
“If there’s one word that I would suggest characterizes your experience in medical school and what it took to succeed in these difficult times, it would be resilience,” Dr. Kadish said. “I think the skills you acquired not just in medicine but dealing with the unknown and whatever comes your way will serve you well in healthcare and life in the years to come.”
In addressing the graduates, keynote speaker Dr. Bourla described the monumental task of development an effective vaccine in a time span that would shatter previous records, and how it took an ambitious mindset to achieve it.
“You are fortunate to have found a school that allowed you to thrive in pursuit of your purpose. Now the world needs you to turn your purpose into action. The accelerating pace of innovation is cause for great hope, because it will result in improved health outcomes,” said Dr. Bourlas. “And each of you—whether you become a surgeon, a primary care physician, a researcher, a teacher or a clinician—you are on the front lines with an opportunity to have a significant impact on human lives.”
“At Pfizer, we referred to the development of our COVID-19 vaccine as a moonshot–a term shorthand for reaching big, for pursuing aspirational and difficult ventures. Today, I challenge you to pursue your own moonshot. To ask yourself how you can achieve something no one else has done before,” he said. “I encourage each one of you to aim high, higher than you can ever imagined. If at first you miss, don’t lower the target. Keep aiming high because when you hit, the reward will be great; for you and for the people that are dependent on you.”
Following the conferral of the degrees for the medical students, Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the SOM and professor of medicine and of pharmacology, led the graduates in the recitation of the Hippocratic oath.
Edward Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and CEO of NYMC, offered closing remarks, charging the students to go forward as competent, compassionate healthcare professionals.
“We confidently send you forth, well-prepared for the challenges posed by your respective disciplines,” Dr. Halperin said. “As you go forward, I charge you to commit yourselves to the highest professional and ethical standards, to render to each person the dignity that is rightfully theirs, to remember that you are stewards of the connected human family, to be compassionate to those in need and to remember with pride NYMC and Touro University, as we will proudly remember you.”