Two hundred and twenty-five happy NEOMED graduates and their proud family and friends filled the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall with the sounds of celebration at NEOMED Commencement, Saturday, May 20. A total of 140 students graduated from the College of Medicine, with another 77 from the College of Pharmacy and an additional 8 from the College of Graduate Studies. President Jay A. Gershen, D.D.S., Ph.D., and J. David Heller, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented an honorary degree to Judith E. Barnes Lancaster, the chair of NEOMED Foundation, at the morning event, which also included a military ceremony for students entering the Armed Services.
Emotional Intelligence in Health Care
With music from UA’s Paragon Brass Quintet providing a festive backdrop, the day marked both endings and the promise of new beginnings. President Gershen set the tone by noting that as each interprofessionally trained graduate moves into the health care workforce, they will become part of larger networks—professional, social and alumni—that are increasingly interdependent, requiring emotional intelligence to navigate.
Presenters from the three colleges—Elisabeth Young, M.D. (’85), interim dean of the College of Medicine and interim vice president for Health Affairs; Charles Taylor, Pharm. D, dean of the College of Pharmacy and vice president for Academic Affairs; and Steven P. Schmidt, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Graduate Studies and interim vice president for Research—followed up on Dr. Gershen’s theme. They encouraged the students to approach their next chapters by knowing themselves, using self-awareness and developing their social and communication skills to benefit their future patients.
Healing and Leading through Self-Knowledge
When people ask Claire Pomeroy, M.D., M.B.A., if her job as president and chief executive officer of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation is difficult, she tells them that nothing is as hard as being a teenager alone, struggling to survive, as she did, running away at 14 from a home full of abuse and fear and being cycled through multiple foster families. From the hard life she faced growing up, Dr. Pomeroy developed the empathy needed to be an effective healer, as well as an unshakable commitment to social justice in medicine that she shared with the audience as the day’s keynote speaker.
“Our health care system today is characterized by shameful health disparities – disparities on the basis of race, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, immigration status and socioeconomic class. Your health status should not be determined by the color of your skin or the ZIP code in which you live. We must proclaim that this is unacceptable,’’ said Dr. Pomeroy.
When patients come to the health care system, their health issues give evidence of the many inequalities that mark our society, said Dr. Pomeroy. Make a difference with your leadership, she exhorted the new graduates.
While the sentiments of the day were often from heartfelt anecdotes, the challenge to the 225 new graduates became an uplifting master class in resonant leadership: Developing emotional intelligence for self-knowledge enhances one’s ability to create positive relationships and outcomes, but it is also a great way to ensure all are in engaged a single mission—to improve the health, economy and quality of life in our diverse communities.