May 28, 2014

In an inspiring commencement address to nearly 600 graduates of the School of Public Health on May 22, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, saluted the class of 2014 and urged graduates to stay enthusiastic about public health in the face of cynicism and indifference.

"Public health graduates are all about enjoying life," said Dr. Sharfstein. "The premise of public health is that the well-being of individuals, families and communities has fundamental moral value." When people are healthy, "they get to live their lives."

Dr. Sharfstein reminded graduates that the School of Public Health has taught them "to measure health, identify disparities, and--most importantly--design and implement solutions." He listed several opportunities for progress, such as advancing tobacco control, improving access to life-saving health coverage, helping the health care system control costs, and enhancing neighborhood access to healthy food and places to exercise. After describing a few public health victories he helped achieve in spite of doubt and criticism, he noted the importance of spending months to review evidence and build support. "There are no shortcuts to good policy," Dr. Sharfstein said, "but there is also no need to give in to cynicism."

There was also plenty of humor from Dr. Sharfstein. "If you are graduating in kinesiology, and for the thousandth time someone asks you what kinesiology means, do not respond that it's the scientific study of 'k-nees,'" he said, adding, "I'm sorry about that one. The Dean is never going to forgive me."

The commencement ceremony included a student address by Felicia Davenport, who received her Bachelor of Science in public health science. As the first person to graduate from college in her family, she highlighted the perseverance and dedication required to earn a degree and congratulated her peers for their accomplishments.

The School of Public Health also used the ceremony to present its highest honor, the Dean's Medal, to Dr. Carlessia Hussein, Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. Hussein has helped build an infrastructure in Maryland to address issues of minority health and health disparities and has partnered with the School of Public Health to advance health equity in the state. Read more about Dr. Hussein and the Dean's Medal.

Read Dr. Sharfstein's complete commencement address.

Photos from the ceremony are available on the SPH Flickr site.

Photo above: Secretary Sharfstein with School of Public Health Dean Jane E. Clark.

Access a PDF of the commencement program at the HTML link below.

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Jane E. Clark