On Wednesday, May 28, at 7:30 p.m., the College of Medicine held its 56th graduation ceremony. Dr. Arturo Casadevall, professor and chair of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and attending physician at Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, offered the keynote address to an audience of nearly 3,000 that filled Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.
In his speech, "Progress and the Requirement for New Knowledge," Dr. Casadevall discussed the importance of learning and generating new knowledge to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing medical and scientific environment.
"I graduated with my M.D.-Ph.D. degree in this same auditorium 29 years ago, on a day pretty much like today," he told the audience. "…When I climbed to this stage to get my degree, medicine was a far cry from what it is today. For example, AIDS was four years old, HIV had just been described and the life expectancy of anyone with a diagnosis of AIDS was a matter of months. There was no diagnostic test for HIV infection… The cause of cervical cancer was unknown… Organ transplantation was a very specialized therapy carried out in only a few medical centers and each operation carried huge risks of organ rejection and infectious disease from immunosuppression.
"Today, HIV is a treatable disease for which there are almost 30 different antiviral agents, and most infected individuals can expect to live normal lives… AIDS went from being a lethal disease to being a manageable condition… there is a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and we can envision a day when this disease can be eradicated… and organ transplantation is a routine procedure with excellent outcomes."
He then asked, "How did we get here?
In discussing how new knowledge, utilizing the tools of science, played a key role in our progress, Dr. Casadevall noted, "...the future of humanity depends on a healthy and robust scientific enterprise..."
And while in today's atmosphere, "science is ailing from multiple maladies that include inadequate funding, high administrative burdens, workforce imbalances, winner-take-all economics and a variety of perverse incentives deep within the scientific enterprise," Dr. Casadevall concluded by reminding the Einstein graduates: "…the way forward is to continue to embrace knowledge and generate knowledge to insure an even better world built with the tools of science and ethics, on the wings of curiosity and the human spirit."
Following Dr. Casadevall's inspirational speech, Dr. Allen M. Spiegel, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein, was joined by Yeshiva University president Richard M. Joel in conferring 178 M.D. degrees, 52 Ph.D. degrees and 14 combined M.D.-Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Spiegel also presented more than a dozen awards recognizing select alumni members for their achievements and commitment to Einstein and faculty members for their teaching excellence, respectively.
The award honorees included:
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