Commencement 2024

Alyssa Reese and Kim Giswold.

Alyssa Diane Reese, right, turns to acknowledge Kim S. Griswold, MD, MPH, after being hooded.

Medical School Awards Diplomas to 169 Graduates

By Dirk Hoffman

Published April 30, 2024

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduated 169 medical students during the 178th commencement on April 26.

Six students in the Class of 2024 earned dual degrees:

  • Two MD/PhD degrees
  • One MD/MBA degree
  • Two MD/oral and maxillofacial surgery degrees
  • One MD/MPH degree

Brashear Extends Heartfelt Congratulations

“As you embark on this phase of your journey, I hope you continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and never lose sight of your capacity to change patients’ lives. ”
Susan Maureen Eichhorn
Class of 2024 speaker

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Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, presided over the ceremony, which took place at the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.

“It is my great pleasure to stand before you today and extend heartfelt congratulations to our graduating class. These future leaders in medicine, nurtured under the guidance of the Jacobs School, embody our steadfast commitment to building an inclusive, equitable, and responsive health care future for all,” she said.

Brashear said at the Jacobs School a collaborative partnership is envisioned between researchers, health care providers, educators, trainees, and students, all working together with affiliated teaching hospitals and research centers.

“Together, we strive to push the boundaries of medical knowledge, imparting these advancements to the next generation of health care professionals, and leveraging them to elevate health care standards not only in Western New York, but also across broader horizons,” she added.

Brashear said she also wanted to take a moment to “to recognize the outstanding contributions of one of our esteemed faculty members.”

Timothy F. Murphy, MD, has been selected as a recipient of the prestigious UB President’s Medal for his extraordinary service to the University at Buffalo.

Established in 1990, the President's Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university community, enriching the quality of life at UB through their scholarly pursuits, humanitarian efforts, leadership, and more.

“Throughout his illustrious career spanning four decades, Dr. Murphy, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the Jacobs School, and director of UB's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), has left an indelible mark on fields such as medicine, microbiology, and immunology,” Brashear said.

“Under Dr. Murphy's leadership, the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute has become a beacon of innovation and collaboration, fostering interdisciplinary research aimed at addressing health disparities and improving community health outcomes.”

“His dedication to nurturing the next generation of clinician-scientists and fostering genuine partnerships with community stakeholders through the CTSI has catalyzed a transformative shift in the landscape of clinical and translational research, ensuring a brighter future for health care innovation at UB and beyond,” she added.

James V. McDonald, MD, MPH.

New York State Commissioner of Health James V. McDonald, MD, MPH, gives the keynote address at commencement.

State Health Commissioner Honored Guest

James V. McDonald, MD, MPH, New York State commissioner of health, was the keynote speaker.

Prior to joining the New York State Department of Health in July of 2022, McDonald served at the Rhode Island Department of Health since 2012.

His diverse career includes officership in the U.S. Navy, as well as private practice in rural areas where health care shortages existed. McDonald also served in the Indian Health Service in in the Navajo Nation, serving as medical director of outpatient medicine in Chinle, Arizona.

He told the graduates that the word “resilience” comes to mind when he thinks of them.

“You started medical school during a pandemic, when there was no vaccine and no treatment. It was a time of uncertainty like had never been seen in this country,” McDonald said. “Resilience has been important to me because medicine is a career full of challenges. It was never on my bingo card for life to be the physician for 20 million people, but taking care of a large group of people is a privilege.”

McDonald said he has experienced enduring joy throughout his medical career and there are three main ideals that have “really helped me a lot.”

The first he said is interaction.

“I have tried to become a master of interacting with my students and my patients.”

Secondly, McDoanld said it is ”really important that you work well with others. This is a lesson I learned in kindergarten.”

“I worked on the Najavo Reservation for a time and it’s funny because anyone I ever met who went to help the Navajo, left far better a person for the time the Navajo helped them,” he said. “The Navajo came up with a slogan for working —  and loosely translated it means “working in good relations with each other.”

“And lastly, it is never about me. It is about my patient. It is about who is in front of me. It is about achieving health equity.”

McDonald noted people often ask him what he means by the term “health equity.”

“Not all of us has the same starting point, but everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity at the best health outcomes.”

“I am encouraged. You have a wonderful start to your career, graduating from this fabulous medical school that has been around since 1846,” he said. “This school knows what it is doing. I am impressed with your school, I am impressed with your faculty.”

“I wish you nothing but enduring joy and peace throughout your career, my friends.”

James Marks getting hooded with honoary degree.

James S. Marks, MD ’73, PhD, is hooded with a SUNY Honorary Degree in Science by SUNY Trustee Eunice Ashman Lewin, left, and A. Scott Weber, PhD, UB’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

SUNY Honorary Doctorate Degree Conferred

James S. Marks, MD ’73, PhD, was awarded a SUNY Honorary Doctoral Degree in Science.

Marks is the former executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. 

A pioneer in public health and health equity, and a global leader in child and maternal health, health promotion and chronic disease prevention, he has dedicated his career to reducing health disparities and improving access to quality health care.

Before joining the RWJF, Marks held important leadership roles in public health, including serving as assistant surgeon general and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 

In 2018, Marks and his wife, Judi, BA ’69, MEd ’72, created the James and Judith Marks Family Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to students in the Jacobs School.

Marks said receiving the honorary degree is special because UB is where he earned his medical degree more than 50 years ago. He said his father and grandfather also earned their degrees at UB and his wife earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s in Education in School Counseling degrees from UB.

“This honor is also special because this degree is in science,” he said. “My career has been in public health and health policy so science has been a central part of my career and my interest in public health grew in part from some of my experiences with patients and professors during my medical school years in Buffalo.”

Marks asked rhetorically what does one hope to gain from a college?

“A sense of connectedness and community with students and faculty,” he answered. “My wife and I got that here and that is why this recognition is all the more meaningful.”

Susan Maureen Eichhorn.

Commencement class speaker Susan Maureen Eichhorn addresses the Class of 2024.

Class Speaker Mixes Humor With Recollections

Class speaker Susan Maureen Eichhorn got the audience laughing as she embarked on recalling the journey of the Class of 2024.

“Coming to Buffalo in 2020, a time full of so much uncertainty, and still finding a way to leave a legacy that will be missed in four short years is not an easy task,” she said, before pausing for effect. “But enough about Stefon Diggs.”

Eichhorn went on to talk about the cameraderie of the graduating class.

“Over these last four years, I have seen people go from strangers to peers to family. We not only worked and studied together, but we watched each other grow into the mature, confident people you see in front of you today.”

Eichhorn said she was reminded of a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “If we magnified our successes as much as we magnify our disappointments, we’d all be much happier.”

“Think back to that feeling when you were accepted to UB four years ago. It probably felt like a dream come true,” she said. “Well, today is the day that the dream comes true. Today, you are a doctor.”

“We have struggled together, we have persevered together, and more importantly, we have achieved together. This is a success that deserves to be magnified.”

Eichhorn then encouraged her classmates to look ahead to the next chapter.

“As you embark on this phase of your journey, I hope you continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and never lose sight of your capacity to change patients’ lives.”

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, handing out a diploma.

Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, Jacobs Scool dean, offers congratulations as she hands out a diploma.