Magnificent commencements

Proud of our students

I am so proud of our newest alumni! You have accomplished so much and grown a great deal during your time here. Your student projects, course work, practica, volunteer activities, research, your multiple talents,  your passion and commitment — you are just awesome. Best wishes on the next stages of your journeys. You always have a home at the School.

Koh is so…

Fabulous! We were thrilled when Howard Koh, MD, MPH, agreed to be our School’s commencement speaker. His personal saga began as the first generation son of a Korean immigrant family whose commitment to education is reflected in their parents’ accomplishments and six highly successful and well-educated children. Howard is well known for his effective tobacco control efforts and as former commissioner of public health for Massachusetts where he was a major force in that state’s successful efforts. Now, he is Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has many critical tasks under his authority.

Dr. Koh gave a marvelous, inspiring talk. (I hope we will have it on our website soon.) He spoke about finding one’s passion, taking care of oneself, being good to others and the power of persistence. The importance of persistence resonated especially with me, and I shared a quote from Ted Kennedy (in his autobiography) about persistence. “If you stick with it, work at it, persevere, you have a real opportunity to achieve something. Sure, there will be storms along the way. And you might not reach your goal right away. But, if you do your best and keep a true compass, persevere, you’ll get there.”

Bloomberg charms Carolina

At UNC’s Sunday commencement ceremony in Kenan Stadium, the sky was (mostly) blue and the sea of gowns was Carolina blue. One of our graduating HPM students, Mohammad Saad, gave the student message. It was excellent—full of nostalgia and vision.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg received an honorary degree, which had been championed by our School. I sat next to him at a dinner Saturday night, and I was so impressed by his command of facts, passion for public health and his courage and commitment to do the right things. He’s engaging, fascinating, iconoclastic and a good listener. As I told him, he’s the public health mayor, and we are proud of him. Under his leadership, New York City has become healthier, greener, more active and more long-lived. Here are just a few compelling facts.

  • Since 2002, nearly half a million New Yorkers have quit smoking. Deaths from heart disease are down about 28% since 2002. Life expectancy for 40-year-olds increased nearly two fold over that for 40-year-olds outside NYC.
  • Deaths from HIV are down because of expanded prevention, screening and treatment.
  • Obesity rates among NYC children have decreased over last five years, in contrast to rest of country.

Mayor Bloomberg gave a wonderful commencement address, and the crowd joined him for the first words as he belted out “Tar” and waited for the response “Heel.” He’d done his homework, with references to Carolina basketball and even ConnectCarolina. His advice was smart and relevant to all fields. He talked about how graduates shouldn’t even think they can map out their entire careers, because they cannot know what the future holds. He stressed teamwork, and said he is more interested in hiring people who talk about we than me. He spoke of equity and fairness and said the vote for Amendment One was neither. From the reaction of students present today, it was apparent that this generation is more tolerant than those who’ve come before them.  Bloomberg concluded his address with this wonderful acronym. “Teamwork is everything. Assist others. Risks are necessary. Hustle, always. Elbows occasionally have to be used. Education is a lifelong journey. Love what you do. And if you put that list together, it of course spells ‘Tar Heel.”

It was a picture-perfect ceremony, and I was proud to be part of it. Best wishes to all our new alumni and their friends and families. Thanks to all the faculty and staff who helped them along the way.

Happy Monday,

Barbara

 

 

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