Masterful Commencement

First Commencement for Public Health & Bioethics Masters Programs

On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Einstein’s Center for Public Health Sciences and the Einstein-Cardozo master’s program in bioethics came together on the Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus to mark the first graduation ceremony for each program.

plaqueHeld in Lubin Dining Hall, the ceremony marked the awarding of master’s degrees to five individuals: Nareen Abboud, Ph.D., Viraj Patel, M.D. and Elizabeth Poole-Di Salvo, M.D. each received a master of public health degree, while Einstein medical students Yonah Bardos and Michelle Goldsammler received a master of science in bioethics.

In welcoming those in attendance, Dr. Paul Marantz, director of the Center for Public Health Sciences, noted that the occasion represented "the first-ever conferring of the degrees." He also expressed gratitude to Drs. Cheryl Merzel, director of Public Health Educational Programs and Tia Powell, director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics, for creation and institution of the two new programs in public health and in bioethics.

The Center for Public Health Sciences introduced the M.P.H. in 2010, along with an option to pursue a certificate in public health. Each program focuses on community-based, applied research and offers a unique approach for training health professionals to become public health change agents in their field. Students study behavioral and social sciences applied to chronic disease prevention as well as, health disparities, global health, and community engagement.

Dr. Tia Powell with M.B.E. graduate Yonah Bardos (Michelle Goldsammler not pictured)
Dr. Tia Powell with M.B.E. graduate Yonah Bardos (Michelle Goldsammler not pictured)
The M.S. in Bioethics was first offered in 2011, expanding on the bioethics certificate course that has been training professionals in bioethics since 1995. Today’s M.B.E. program represents a collaboration of Einstein and Montefiore with Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law that builds on the tested foundation of the certificate program. The program teaches students how to solve complex bioethics issues through practical methods, and seeks to improve patient care, practice, scholarship and teaching with humane treatment and research at its core.

As the commencement ceremony continued, Dr. Allen M. Spiegel, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Einstein, congratulated the graduates. Keynote speaker Dr. Steven M. Safyer, president and CEO of Einstein’s University Hospital and academic medical center, Montefiore Medical Center, followed by mentioning his own experiences as a community organizer, where he discovered the importance of health in community. "Medicine seized my curiosity and captured my intellect, and it now gives me a position from which to advocate social justice."

Dr. Safyer also spoke about his work with prisoners on Rikers Island, where AIDS presented new challenges. "We began to see tuberculosis and HIV, twin epidemics resisting treatment. I knew if I found common ground, we’d have the opportunity to make changes."

) Drs. Cheryl Merzel and Paul Marantz flank M.P.H. graduates (Drs. Elizabeth Poole-Di Salvo, Viraj Patel and Nareen Abboud)
Drs. Cheryl Merzel and Paul Marantz flank M.P.H. graduates (Drs. Elizabeth Poole-Di Salvo, Viraj Patel and Nareen Abboud)
He continued, "Today’s twin epidemics are obesity and diabetes. Seventy percent of our borough is overweight or obese, and we’re seeing children being affected." He lauded Montefiore’s efforts to fight diabetes and promote activity in local schools. He also touched upon the current debate around healthcare reform, before closing with this advice for graduates: "Be curious, open, and ready to accept different opportunities."

Before presenting the bioethics graduates, Dr. Powell discussed how bioethics is not an afterthought, but is woven into the fabric of our institution, exemplified by the unique collaboration with Cardozo Law. She reflected on the diversity of the student body, most of whom are mid-career professionals from fields as divergent as religion, social work, medicine and law.

"Most people who are on hospital bioethics committees have little or no formal training and our aim is to provide better training in bioethics," she said. "We see our classes as a gateway drug. We know they will love our courses and want to take more. We are the pushers of bioethics. "

Rounding out the ceremony, Dr. Merzel – who holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in public health – introduced graduates of the public health program. She observed, "Graduating our first students is an amazing milestone to reach. We’re trying to build a unique program to prepare health professionals for public health research and action."

She added, "Our students commit themselves to advocacy and action that can improve health of people around the world."

Posted on: Monday, July 23, 2012