On May 22, the University of Maryland School of Public Health graduated more than 500 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in a commencement ceremony at the university’s Xfinity Center, at which U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak (RADM) was the keynote speaker.
Dean Jane Clark introduced RADM Lushniak, who served as the Acting United States Surgeon General from July 17, 2013 until December 18, 2014. RADM Lushniak first became deputy surgeon general in November 2010, having started his career in the United States Public Health Service in 1988 as a Lieutenant. A medical doctor, RADM Lushniak’s professional history ranges from epidemiological investigations of workplace hazards to international disaster response activities.
Wearing the white uniform of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, RADM Lushniak began by recognizing graduates’ friends and family members in the audience, who helped support those receiving degrees throughout their academic career. He then exhorted the audience – graduates and spectators alike – to stand and stretch, a nod to the increasing recognition of a sedentary lifestyle’s effect on health.
RADM Lushniak acknowledged the significance of commencement in graduates’ lives, comparing it to the start of a new chapter or the turning over of a major number on a car odometer. As they embark on their public health careers, RADM Lushniak advised graduates to consider the importance of five elements: mission, passion, team, integrity, and vision.
In defining one’s public health career mission, RADM Lushniak asked graduates to remember the World Health Organization’s definition of health, which states that health, “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” He said that passion is critical to the success of a career in public health, since it is a field “where often times the world seems to be against us,” as is the ability to work well in a team.
In addition to the importance of maintaining integrity, RADM Lushniak said that a public health career requires the vision to see, “Where are we heading?” Recounting an anecdote from his recent command of the US Public Health Service Commission Corps Monrovia Medical Unit, where his medical team treated Ebola patients in Liberia, he said, “What we need in public health is that ability to be able to look out and have vision.” He added that working in public health requires the ability to look over the horizon and identify where an effort is heading, and how problems and obstacles can be avoided or overcome.
RADM Lushniak closed with a quote by the Indian writer Tagore and urged the class of 2015 to act: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and behold, service is joy.”
More about the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s 2015 Spring commencement: http://sph.umd.edu/event/sph-spring-2015-commencement