Commencement 2021

Michael E. Cain, MD, speaks to students at graduation.

Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Dean Michael E. Cain, MD, speaks to the Class of 2021 during the school’s 175th annual commencement ceremony April 30.

Jacobs School Graduates First Larger Class of 180 Physicians

Published May 7, 2021

story by dirk hoffman

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduated 180 medical students during its 175th annual commencement ceremony April 30.

“To the Class of 2021, more than ever, my heartfelt congratulations. You are already seasoned physicians who understand better than most the leadership roles you must accept. ”
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School



The Jacobs School increased its medical school class size from 144 to 180 in 2017, making members of the Class of 2021 the first of the larger class sizes to earn their medical degrees.

The ceremony marked a return to in-person commencement, although it was conducted outdoors at UB Stadium on the university’s North campus to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. Last year’s commencement ceremony was conducted virtually due to the pandemic.

Nine students in the Class of 2021 earned dual degrees:

  • five MD/PhD degrees
  • two MD/MBA degrees
  • one MD/MPH degree
  • one MD/oral and maxillofacial surgery degree 

Cain Tells Graduates to Shine When They Have the Chance

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, presided over the ceremony for the 15th and final time as it was announced April 27 that he is stepping down from his two leadership posts at the University at Buffalo.

He noted the ceremony marked the beginning of a 12-month celebration of the 175th anniversary of the medical school and university.

Cain also noted the unprecedented times.

“You are graduating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This assault has affected every aspect of our professional and private lives, including this graduation, evidenced by being outside in a low-pressure cold front. But we are together and your families are with us.”

“You are a unique group of new physicians. You, unlike most of your predecessors, have directly experienced early in your careers the horrific impact of such a global menace on the public health, on your own health and on your daily lives,” Cain said.

Cain also remarked on the ongoing social justice movements throughout the country.

“Our school, our local community and the nation are addressing racism and health care disparities in medicine and in our society,” he said. “The Jacobs School is sensitive to the impact of these changes on all of us. Thank you for being valued partners as we work to be more inclusive, diverse, sensitive, professional and humanistic in all that we do.”

“To the Class of 2021, more than ever, my heartfelt congratulations. You are already seasoned physicians who understand better than most the leadership roles you must accept,” Cain added.

“Throughout your career and your life, when you have a chance to shine — shine.” 

Class Speaker Says Failure Greatest Teacher

Class speaker Jordan S. Levine talked about failure and how it’s a key ingredient in everyone’s success and “is our greatest teacher.”

“A tweak in perspective allows us to see these incredible opportunities that lurk within our failures,” he said. “And medical school will humble you enough to know that trying is the most courageous thing we can do.”

Levine noted that UB wait-listed him three times and that he could not be more grateful for it.

“Because every time, it was another opportunity to reflect inward and be honest with myself, to ask those big questions, ‘What do I really want in life and what do I do get there?’ and ‘How do I grow as a human being to get there?’ I did the same thing every single person graduating today did. I kept trying,” he said.

Fast forward two years and as a third-year medical student, Levine participated in a rigorous interdisciplinary surgical innovation competition.

“By the first half of the competition, three of my six teammates dropped out, but quitting was not an option for me,” he said.

Then he received a phone call alerting him that his father had slipped and hit his head and would be undergoing emergency brain surgery.

In a state of shock, Levine made the decision to stay in Buffalo to finish the surgical competition rather than go home immediately to support his family.

“My heart was pulling me in one direction, yet I made the conscious decision to go the other way,” he said. “That was my biggest failure, to fail as a son, to fail as a human being — to forget what is important in life and prioritize a line on a resume before the people you love.”

Levine said he learned that “sometimes failure is not knowing when to quit, sometimes quitting can be the most courageous thing you do.”

“And while I am incredibly lucky to say my father is alive and well and is here today, I beg you all to learn from my failure and lead with your heart.”

Kinkel, Russo Honored for Accomplishments

Jacobs School alumnus William R. Kinkel, MD ’54, a neurologist who is a pioneer in the field of neuroimaging, and the founder of the Dent Neurologic Institute, was awarded a SUNY Honorary Doctorate of Science.

Kinkel is world renowned for his research and leadership in the treatment of neurologic diseases, particularly Parkinson’s disease. His expertise and innovative teaching have made UB and Dent world-class training facilities for neuroimaging.

“I’m not alone at the podium because there are thousands of students, residents and fellows acknowledging the greatness of this unique educator, innovator, and most importantly, a physician who always placed patient care as a priority,” said Laszlo L. Mechtler, MD, clinical professor of neurology, in accepting the award on Kinkel’s behalf.

Thomas A. Russo, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseaseswas awarded the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB’s highest honor.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Russo has educated and informed the university, health care providers, the public and businesses about how best to manage the evolving crisis.

In a video message, Jeremy M. Jacobs, chair of the UB Council said: “Dr. Russo is a personality in this community who is extremely valuable. He is informed, he is a person who has achieved at these levels, who you respect and somebody you can depend on. He epitomizes what we hope to achieve in training new doctors.”

“It makes you very proud as a Buffalonian to have people like that representing your university, but beyond that, representing your community.”