Presenting the Class of 2010

Watch REPLAY of 2010 COM Commencement

     The students of the USF College of Medicine Class of 2010 closed a chapter in their own lives when they graduated Thursday.

      But they are entering a world where they will be central characters in the stories of other lives: those of their patients, writer Dr. Perri E. Klass told them Thursday.

      “What the doctor sees is what the writer knows,” she said. “That we live in a world full of stories. You are going to be so important in so many people’s lives. And you know that because you’ve spent the last several years learning how to walk into other people’s lives.”


Commencement speaker Dr. Perri Klass

     Dr. Klass, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, as well as frequent articles about medicine in the New York Times, is professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University.

      “You are going to be so important in so many stories,” Dr. Klass told the new doctors. “In the lives of so many people that you haven’t met yet.

      “You will be there when people are afraid, and confused, and in great pain. You’ll be there when people get the worst news they’ve ever heard. You’ll be there when they get their reprieves. You’ll be there at the moments of their fear, and their pain, and their joy.

      “You will be the ones walking into their rooms and standing at their bedsides and offering help and comfort. And sometimes, you will be almost as frightened as your patients.

      “But you will be walking into their stories, and standing in their stories, and sitting in their stories. And you’ll be asking and you’ll be listening. And you’ll help to shape how those stories go.”



      The new graduates will also get to shape the future of medicine, said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health. As medicine speeds into an uncertain world marked by healthcare reform, new technology and dizzying change, Dr. Klasko told graduates that he recently heard two starkly different views of their future prospects.

      One looked backwards. A physician bemoaned the unpredictability of all the changes and told Dr. Klasko he would hate to be starting his medical career now. In fact, he was glad he would soon retire.

      Then Dr. Klasko went on to a forum on technology, where people looked toward today’s uncertainty with enthusiasm.


     “The same set of facts. Two very different outlooks,” Dr. Klasko said. “So what should I be telling you? To hope that we go back to the ‘good old days,’ that my physician colleague hopes will happen?
“Or to recognize the class of 2010 is potentially entering the single most exciting time in health care history?”

     Also at Thursday’s ceremony, Dr. Klasko also gave out the annual Dean’s Award to two people.


Dean’s Award recipient Patricia Burns, PhD

     The first honoree was Patricia Burns, PhD, RN, FAAN, former dean of the College of Nursing. Dr. Burns stepped down last week after 12 years as dean.  The award was presented “in recognition of her leadership in transforming education at USF Health.”  In accepting the award, Dr. Burns recognized all her colleagues at USF Health and clinical partners, who have worked toward the common goal of raising the standards of health in the Tampa Bay area.


Dean’s Award recipient Nygel Lenz

     The second honoree was Nygel Lenz, a patient who spoke at a USF Health forum last fall about the challenges of living with Friedrieich’s ataxia, a rare neuromuscular disorder. Friedreich’s affects the body’s ability to balance, as well as causing muscle weakness and other problems. Lenz, an advocate and leader in the ataxia community, received the award “in recognition that patients are our best teachers.” 

      Dr. Klass closed her remarks Thursday with words of reassurance, describing one of her worst days early in her career, when she was juggling a multitude of sick patients with the illness of her own daughter, then a toddler. Her daughter’s pediatrician offered her comfort.

      “He touched my shoulder and said, ‘There are days like this, but at least we’re on the side of the angels,’ “ she told the graduates. “Welcome, if I may be so presumptuous, to the side of the angels. And congratulations.”

— Story by Lisa Greene, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications