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Rosalind Franklin University Celebrates 103rd Commencement

Members of the Class of 2017 were awarded graduate degrees in 18 healthcare and biomedical disciplines during Rosalind Franklin University's 103rd Commencement Celebration, held June 2 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago..

"Today, we confer upon you academic and professional degrees that make you the guardians of the health of our nation and our society," Dr. K. Michael Welch, president and CEO, told more than 650 graduates.

"Our nation continues to experience great changes in the delivery of health care and it is becoming clear that professionals in multiple disciplines working in teams are essential to the delivery of safe, affordable health care," Dr. Welch said. "The interprofessional learning you have experienced during your years of study at RFU will serve you well as leaders of the collaborative patient-centered care of the future."

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, who delivered the commencement address, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The first African American woman to be board certified in neurosurgery, she blazed trails in clinical and academic leadership during a more than 30-year career and worked for the advancement of women and underrepresented populations in medicine. 

Dr. Canady, who said "medical care is both physical and emotional," reminded graduates of the "sacred responsibility" to put the needs of their patients first and urged them to participate in the development of practice guidelines in their respective fields.

"Formulating guidelines and care teams is now central to clinicians' responsibilities," she said. "You have the most intimate knowledge of what works and perhaps most importantly, what is really doable in daily practice." 

In reflecting on her own experience, Dr. Canady advised RFU healthcare professionals to strive to develop personal connections with their patients, who want to be known and valued. Such connections, she said, offer "the best hope for healing." She cited a shared desire for emotional connection among both clinicians and patients.

"When the goals line up — the desire for connection by both caregiver and patient — the structural barriers to that connection can always be bridged," she said.

Sylvestra Ramirez, DPT '10, MS '11, 2016 College of Health Professions Alumnus of the Year, also addressed graduates, telling them how she overcame barriers to establishing the first fully bilingual, bicultural physical therapy clinic in Milwaukee, WI.

"Each of you has the training and the talent to succeed," Dr. Ramirez said. "Rosalind Franklin University has a great reputation for graduating highly skilled, hardworking, and remarkable healthcare professionals. Be grateful for the professors, staff and mentors who helped you to achieve this huge milestone in your life."

Founded in 1912, RFU has conferred degrees upon more than 17,000 living alumni, including biomedical researchers, medical doctors, podiatric physicians, physician assistants, psychologists, nurse anesthetists, physical therapists, pathologists' assistants, health administrators, and more.