On the morning of Thursday, May 26 the pageantry and jubilance of Commencement returned to Harvard Yard for the first time since 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Class of 2022 graduates proudly marched into the Yard and took their places amongst graduates from across the University for Harvard’s 371st Commencement ceremony.
“Being here—being together at long last—is frankly moving beyond words,” said President Lawrence Bacow in his welcoming remarks. President Bacow encouraged the graduates to use their education to enrich the lives of others.
“Whatever you do with your Harvard education please be known as much for your humility, kindness, and concern for others as for your professional accomplishments,” he said. “Please work to extend opportunities to others just has it has been extended to you. That is how you will sustain the pride and joy you feel today.”
The Provost and Deans of the graduate schools and Harvard College then introduced the degree candidates to the President to confer degrees. Dean Giannobile took the stage and addressed the President and graduates.
“As Dean of the School of Dental Medicine, I have the honor to present to you these degree candidates, each of whom has devoted four years to the study of dental medicine or at least three years to postdoctoral studies aimed at improving health and the quality of life,” he said. President Bacow recognized the dental graduates and welcomed them into a demanding branch of medicine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand gave this year’s Commencement Address. Ardern spoke of the ideals and values of democratic nations. She emphasized the need for genuine debate and dialogue in society to address the erosion of trust.
“We are richer for our differences, and poorer for our division,” Ardern said. “There are some things in this life that make the world feel small and connected, let kindness be one of them.”
After the morning ceremony, HSDM students joined their Harvard Medical School (HMS) classmates to celebrate Class Day on the Quad. Harvard DMD and MD graduates, along with proud family, friends, and faculty gathered to listen to remarks by student speakers, deans from both schools, and keynote speaker Joia Mukherjee. Mukherjee, associate professor of global health and social medicine at HMS, and Chief Medical Officer for Partners in Health, urged the graduates to take action to build a better future.
“Whatever path you take in medicine, maintain the radical notion of hope, the belief that our collective action can and must bring about change,” Mukherjee said.
“We came together through education, introspection, difficult conversations, and most powerfully, through collective action. Uncertainty was our catalyst, driving us to abandon the desire to return to normalcy and instead, work towards the need for the world to be better,” Guntaka said.
“We each brought this strength into clinic amid a global pandemic, where every patient spotlighted the critical importance of oral health as a window to overall well-being. Navigating through these unprecedented times, we summoned the courage and passion from within to not just face uncertainty, but embrace uncertainty,” he said. “As our zealous class goes on to master residencies in various specialties across the country, let us continue to inform and amplify our voices as dedicated advocates and educators, remembering to always treat the patient, not just the disease.”
Dean Giannobile praised the graduates for their determination to make an impact and advance healthcare equity and access to care. He also addressed the extraordinary challenges the class faced throughout the pandemic. “When faced with limited clinical time due to capacity limits, you became highly adaptable and organized and made the most of every patient interaction. You continued to innovate, pursue research projects, outreach programs, externships, and extracurricular activities. Going through these challenges together, you bonded as a class, and you looked out for each other. I greatly admire your perseverance, adaptability, camaraderie, and positivity. These qualities, and the strong bonds you’ve formed, will serve you well as healthcare providers.”
Following the remarks, each graduate was called to the stage. With bright smiles on their faces, and to cheers from their family and friends, they received their doctoral hoods and diplomas. This year’s 37 DMD graduates will go on to pursue residencies and advanced degrees at universities and medical institutions across the country, in addition to joining clinical practices and serving the country through the Navy and Army, VA Medical Centers, and the National Health Service Corps.
“You represent the future of our profession – you will shape the field of dental medicine and influence emerging areas. Set bold and audacious goals and pursue them with passion and determination. Be principled and brave, and willing to take risks,” said Giannobile. “Today is YOUR day, doctors. We can’t wait to see where the future will take you!”