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“You Can Transform Health Care”

May 14, 2018
Photo of 2018 graduates at commencement

Watch Commencement video.

View photos from the ceremony.

MGH Institute of Health Professions graduated the largest class in its 41-year history on May 14 at 2018 Commencement.

A total of 583 members of the Class of 2018 received doctoral, master, bachelor degrees, or certificates, in nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, speech-language pathology, rehabilitation sciences, and health professions education.

President Paula Milone-Nuzzo, who became the Boston graduate school’s sixth leader in August 2017, gave the keynote address to an audience of more than 2,000 people at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center. She told the graduates that despite concerns about the decrease in life expectancy due to such things as the opioid crisis and the neighborhood where a person lives, they can lead the way in reversing those trends.

“Your knowledge of the social determinants of health and approaches to improving behavioral health will have a significant effect on the health of the neighborhoods in which you practice,” Dr. Milone-Nuzzo said. “You are prepared to influence the health of our population through your commitment to underserved populations and your expertise in the areas that are most relevant to improve health. You are also prepared to transform health care through your understanding and comfort with interprofessional approaches to care delivery.”

Dr. Milone-Nuzzo cited the introduction of artificial intelligence as something that could substantially change patient care. But she was quick to point out that machines and robots can not replace the human factor that health care professionals provide. “As we consider our practice, whether with individuals or communities, the importance of human touch, the expression of caring and the ability to put yourself in someone else shoes cannot be understated.  

“As you go out into your careers, remember that, with the authority you have to change a person’s life, comes great responsibility to always do the right thing,” she added. “Honesty and integrity are the important bonds that influence your relationships with patients and your commitment to your profession. It takes thought and reflection to create your own true north and courage to always act with integrity.”

Alumni, Faculty, Trustees Recognized

Several people were recognized for their accomplishments, both to the MGH Institute and to the advancement of health care.

Rebecca Stephenson, PT, DPT ’06, MS ’05, WCS, CLT, received the Bette Ann Harris Distinguished Alumni Award. A member of the rehabilitation and clinical leadership team at Newton-Wellesley Hospital as a clinical physical therapy specialist, Dr. Stephenson has played a major role in improving the treatment of women with severe back and pelvic pain during the early stages of their pregnancy, and founded the non-profit Global Women’s Health Initiative to promote women’s health both domestically and internationally through physical therapy.

Kenya Palmer, MSN ’13, FNP-BC CSCS, received the Emerging Leader Alumni Award. A nurse practitioner at Boston Medical Center, Palmer works in the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition and Weight Management where she uses her 14 years of experience as a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach to address obesity with her patients, especially those from underserved populations.

Dr. Leslie Portney, the inaugural dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and former chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, was named Dean Emerita.

Four faculty members were bestowed emerita status: Dr. Pamela Levangie, the recently retired chair of the Department of Physical Therapy; Dr. Marianne Beninato, professor of physical therapy; Dr. Janet Callahan, associate professor of physical therapy; and Dr. Mertie Potter, professor of nursing.

E. Lorraine Baugh, the first chair of the Board of Trustees and a renowned nurse, health care leader, community activist, and entrepreneur, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Dr. George Thibault, the current board chair who is stepping down at the end of June, was recognized for his leadership. During his 13 years as chair, the MGH Institute experienced unprecedented growth and transformation which included more than doubling the student population, adding several new academic programs, launching a substantial research initiative, and expanding the campus from one to eight buildings, while also its assuring financial health and sustainability.