On a beautiful Saturday morning, with family and friends gathered to celebrate the Class of 2023 at the Geisel School of Medicine’s MD program Class Day ceremony, guest speaker Chidi Chike Achebe MED ’96, MPH, MBA, described Dartmouth as a “magical place” and expressed gratitude for the medical school faculty whose guidance and support influenced his life. He told Geisel’s new class of physicians that medicine provides one of the best opportunities for servant leaders, whose humility, charity, gratitude, empathy, kindness, and direct engagement build trust and help create a conducive environment for innovation and excellence.
“Many of you graduating today will achieve positions of leadership. In clinical practice, the physician-leader relies on the expertise of members of the clinical team to care for patients and appreciates and validates the contributions of all members of this team,” Achebe said. “At no other time in the history of medicine are servant leaders more needed than today.”
Touching on four problems within healthcare—the system itself, the need for first-rate primary care physicians, the burnout and mental illness rate among healthcare providers, and the cost of racism—he urged the new physicians to maintain a disposition of selfless gratitude to all who have and will continue to care for, teach, and help them remain resilient throughout their lives and to heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
He also encouraged them to be crusaders of social justice, fight discrimination, and be beacons of light for equity and fairness; in parting, he quoted actor Denzel Washington, “Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”
Duane Compton, PhD, dean of the medical school, congratulated the 74 members of the Class of ’23 and welcomed everyone to the Class Day ceremony featuring guest speaker Achebe, founder, and CEO of the Boston-based, African Integrated Development Enterprise that provides integrated, patient-centered, cost-effective, and sustainable healthcare services, and student-speaker Gus Hendrick MED ’23. Geisel Alumni Council President John Houde MED ’92 expressed pride in the graduates’ accomplishments and welcomed the new physicians to their supportive alumni family.
Hendrick’s address, a mix of humor, memories, and appreciation, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed faculty, and my fellow graduates, it is an honor to stand before you today as we celebrate the culmination of our time in medical school.
“Alright, I am going to be honest here, ChatGPT generated that sentence, and it does not sound like me at all. So, I’m going off script.
“In all seriousness, medical school has been a challenging four years—a new curriculum, a world-wide pandemic, and an increasingly complex healthcare climate have made the road to helping others and furthering science more arduous. But despite those obstacles, our class somehow maintained a strong sense of community and supported one another through it all.
“When I look out across this crowd, the chairs are filled with doctors who truly care about others, who fight for what’s right, and do so with effortless grace and humility,” he said.
Hendrick also expressed appreciation for faculty and administrators who “gave us the knowledge to succeed as physicians and the skills to adapt to new situations and overcome adversity.
“Let’s go out there and make the world a healthier and happier place!”
Photos by Rob Strong
Dean Compton presented Tanya Sorensen MED ’23 with The William Mellen Chamberlain Memorial Prize and Dean’s Medal—given each year to a member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the faculty, has the best overall record of achievement during their four years of study at Geisel.
Selected by members of their class as someone who best exemplifies the personal and intangible qualities of the good physician—caring and empathy—Arvind Suresh MED ’23 received The Good Physician Award.
In his closing remarks, Compton took a nostalgic turn recalling his first meeting with the Class of 2023 before turning to their numerous accomplishments. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “In a gentle way you can shape the world,” Compton told the graduates that despite the challenges of the pandemic during their early years, he was impressed by their commitment to the medical school’s community, and their gentle way of shaping the world through their innate altruism, intention, and resolve to make the medical school stronger and to improve the lives of those in the Upper Valley community.
“I have been lucky to witness the impact you have made, and I am astonished by your intention,” he said.
During the previous evening’s annual Student and Faculty Awards ceremony, Alison V. Holmes, MD, MPH, associate dean for student affairs, recognized students, faculty, and residents for their achievements.
Michaela O’Connor MED ’23 received the John and Sophia Zaslow Prize, which is awarded to the graduating student that best exemplifies the qualities of spirit, mind, and heart shown by Dr. Zaslow, a “compassionate healer, an astute diagnostician, and a practical therapist of body and soul.”
Among the other awards conferred: Katherine Hefcart MED ’23 received The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award presented by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation to a graduating medical student who consistently demonstrates compassion and empathy in the delivery of healthcare; Vijay Thadani, MD, PhD, was the faculty recipient. Arvind Suresh MED ’23 received the Dean’s Leadership Award. Gus Hendrick MED ’23 and Eric Jayne MED ’23 received the Kyle Janeczek Memorial Award. Arvind Suresh received the Rolf C. Syvertsen Fellow Award, and Aya Bashi MED ’23, Kennedy Jensen MED ’23, Colin McLeish MED ’23, Linda Morris MED ’23, and Isabelle Tersio MED ’23 were named Rolf C. Syvertsen Scholars.
If you missed the Class Day 2023 ceremony, watch the video here: