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Epidemiologist Dr. Bradley Hersh Urges Graduates to Engage with Communities, Get Involved, Become Part of the Solution to Health Challenges

Rosalind Franklin University celebrated its 110th Commencement on May 31 as the Class of 2024, joined by their family and friends, took to the stage — a testament to the power of dedication and perseverance.

The most recent graduates of 69ɫƬ’s six colleges and schools entered their training during the early days of a pandemic. They will go on to practice, teach, research, and lead with the knowledge and determination to improve the health of people and communities.

These new health and biomedical professionals, like our keynote speaker, Bradley Hersh, MD ’80, MPH, FACP, will help transform systems of care by working in partnership with people and their communities to make it easier to be healthy. Dr. Hersh, one of the nation’s top epidemiologists and CDC liaison officer to the World Health Organization, urges health professionals to advocate for patients by “improving access to high quality, value-based, safe and effective, preventive and therapeutic health services.”

Dr. Hersh offered graduates four recommendations for how they can improve health and wellness across populations: focus on the root causes of disease — the non-medical factors that affect the health of people and communities and that are shaped by forces beyond an individual's control; focus on prevention, which is more effective and efficient than treatment; find a mentor and become a mentor, for strategic guidance, building a network of support, and sharing wisdom and advice; become agents of change.

American Healthcare System Ripe for Disruption

“The American healthcare system is ripe for disruption,” said Dr. Hersh, who served at the forefront of battles against emerging infectious diseases, pandemics and epidemics, including COVID-19, HIV-AIDS, polio and measles across the U.S. and abroad.

“We all need to fully engage with our local communities, work with state and national professional societies, get involved in the political process and become part of the solution,” he said.

After 44 years of service as a physician and epidemiologist, Dr. Hersh said he was “handing off care of the U.S. population to the Rosalind Franklin University Class of 2024.”

“We are all counting on you to become the healthcare leaders of tomorrow and work to find solutions to the national emergency of decreasing life expectancy,” Dr. Hersh told 69ɫƬ graduates during the ceremony held at Credit Union 1 Arena on the UIC campus in Chicago.

Meeting the Challenges Ahead

69ɫƬ President and CEO Wendy Rheault encouraged graduates to use their education and training and the power of partnerships to improve systems of care and help create a more equitable future.

“The degree conferred on you today represents both the knowledge you have gained and your commitment to service,” Dr. Rheault said. “As health care, science and technology continue to converge, I have every confidence that you will meet the challenges ahead. You can build a future in which every person has the opportunity to achieve their full health potential.”

The university is marking 20 years since it became the first medical institution in the United States to recognize a woman scientist through an honorary namesake. Graduate speaker Phillip Kulpinski, DPM ’24, awarded a degree by the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, hailed Dr. Rosalind Franklin, who in 1953 discovered the double helix structure of DNA, for her “relentless pursuit of knowledge and discovery.”

“Just like Dr. Franklin, we, the Class of 2024, have navigated a multitude of challenges, surmounted obstacles and emerged stronger,” Dr. Kulpinski said. “We as a class adapted to continually changing guidelines to protect our community, embraced virtual learning and discovered ways to grow closer together in a time of social distance.

“Our time at Rosalind Franklin University has been transformative,” Dr. Kulpinski said. “It has not only equipped us with the knowledge and skills required for our respective fields but has also fostered a collaborative spirit that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Our education here has been more than a curriculum.”

Posted May 31

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