Commencement 2009!

Gates Foundation Global Health leader to address medical grads; Gilman to speak at graduate school exercises

By Lin Lofley

Commencement ceremonies for UT Southwestern Medical School and UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences will be held separately this year to recognize the unique achievements of graduates of the two schools.

On June 4, the medical school will confer degrees on 233 students in annual ceremonies to be held at 8 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

Dr. Alfred Gilman (left), Dr. Tadataka Yamada

The next evening, June 5, 67 graduate students will be honored in the Tom and Lula Gooch Auditorium in ceremonies that begin at 7:30 p.m.

“The Meyerson is a gorgeous place that seats about 2,000 people,” said Dr. Mary Gajewski-Ashmead, co-president of the graduating class with Dr. Karen Chen. “We’re very pleased.”

The Gooch Auditorium holds about 1,200 people, and Dr. Melanie Cobb, dean of the graduate school, said the move indoors will be welcomed by those attending. Previously, the hooding ceremony took place in the A.W. Harris Faculty and Alumni Center, but with the significant increase in graduates — this year’s 67 is 20 more than a year ago — a change of venue was welcome. This year the families and friends of graduates will be able to see both the hooding and commencement ceremonies without having to move from one venue to another.

“This is an opportunity for our graduates to have more people attend the ceremony,” Dr. Cobb said. “We’re very excited about it.”

Dr. Tadataka Yamada, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will address the medical school graduates and their guests. Dr. Yamada is past president of the American Gastroenterological Association and the Association of American Physicians. He is a master of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the Imperial College of Medicine and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. and the Academy of Medical Sciences in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Yamada leads the Gates Foundation’s efforts to help develop and deliver low-cost, lifesaving health tools for the developing world. He oversees the foundation’s global health grant portfolio, as well as its advocacy program, and is part of the foundation’s executive management team.

Delivering the commencement address at graduate school ceremonies will be Nobel laureate Dr. Alfred Gilman, who will be finishing up his last day as executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of the medical school. On the following Monday, he will begin his duties as chief scientific officer for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

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Dr. Gilman has served as a member of the
UT Southwestern faculty and administration since 1981, when he became the chairman of pharmacology. He was named executive vice president for academic affairs and provost in 2006.

In 1994 Dr. Gilman received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of G proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells. Upon his departure he will hold the honorary title of professor emeritus of pharmacology.

Degrees will be conferred upon all the graduates by Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, presiding over medical and graduate school commencement exercises for the first time since becoming president of the medical center in September.

The physician’s oath will be given by Dr. Philip J. Huber Jr., president of the Dallas County Medical Society.

Graduation marshals for the medical school ceremonies are Dr. Daniel Foster, professor of internal medicine; Dr. Angela Mihalic, associate dean for student affairs; Dr. Hari Raja, associate professor of internal medicine; Dr. Amit Shah, assistant professor of internal medicine; Dr. Ellen Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center; and Dr. James Wagner, associate dean for student affairs.

Graduate school marshals are Dr. Stuart Ravnik, assistant dean for the graduate school; Dr. Michael Roth, professor of biochemistry and associate dean for the graduate school; Dr. Nancy Street, associate dean for the graduate school; and Dr. Andrew Zinn, associate dean for the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Gifford Touchstone, a trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation, will present the foundation’s annual Ho Din Award — the top award given to a member of the medical school’s graduating class — to Dr. Tyler Hollmig.