Release Date: May 3, 2018
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo will hold its 172nd commencement at 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.
One hundred and thirty-two students will receive medical degrees, including one MD/oral and maxillofacial surgery degree and five MD/MBA degrees.
The ceremony kicks off UB’s commencement season, which will feature a total of 18 graduation ceremonies over the next several weeks.
Honors and speakers
Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, and Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration, will receive the UB President’s Medal in recognition of their extraordinary service to the university.
UB alumnus Robert Peter Gale, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned hematologist, immunologist, molecular biologist and cancer researcher, will receive a SUNY honorary doctorate of science at the ceremony.
Claire Maggiotto is the student-nominated class speaker.
The keynote speaker for the Jacobs School ceremony is Hannah A. Valantine, MD, chief officer for scientific workforce diversity at the National Institutes of Health. The first person to hold that position, Valantine is nationally recognized for her transformative approaches to diversity and is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award for Diversity in the Scientific Workforce. As a senior investigator at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Valantine conducts research geared toward developing non-invasive ways to detect early signs of rejection in organ transplant patients.
‘The biggest thing at UB is the people’
Among the graduates is Shanté White, a first-generation college student who graduated from UB’s School of Nursing in 2012 and was a member of the UB women’s varsity track and field team. This summer, White will begin a residency in anesthesiology at the University of Rochester.
White, who is from Syracuse, attended UB as an undergraduate thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholar Program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
She had always wanted to be a doctor. “But when I came to UB, I kind of took a different route,” she said. “When I started the premed courses, I was a little intimidated. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up.” She ended up in the nursing program, which she loved, but by junior year, she was excelling both on the field and in the classroom. “So I thought, maybe I can go to medical school.”
During the summers, she took prerequisite courses for medical school, graduated with her class and then continued to take more prerequisites during a fifth year at UB.
“The biggest thing at UB is the people,” she said, noting that she had especially strong relationships with Charles Severin, MD, PhD, associate professor; David Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs; and Judy Tamburlin, PhD, research associate professor. “They were the first three people at the medical school that I met and I connected with them.”
Milling encouraged White to apply to medical school although she felt that parts of her application weren’t that strong. When she was applying for residency, he again encouraged her to apply, despite her concerns that she wouldn’t match to the program that she wanted. “He’s just been that person who, when you doubt yourself, he doesn’t. And if you want to do it, he tries to make sure you don’t stray away from it,” she said.
Chris Cohan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, was another important source of support. “No matter how busy he was, he always had time to listen,” White said.
At the Jacobs School, White said her classmates, in particular, were enormously supportive. “A lot of the people you meet are very kindhearted. There’s way more to them than just their grades. The biggest thing is, they want you to do well. We all want each other to do well. We help each other out; we’re not just in it for ourselves.”
In addition to her Gates Millennium scholarship, White received critical support from On Point for College, a Syracuse-based organization that provides financial assistance to first-generation college students. While an undergraduate, the group’s volunteers drove her home during holiday and summer breaks. It also funded study materials and fees for her medical school board exams, as well as travel expenses for her residency interviews.
White was recently the keynote speaker at the organization’s annual conference. “It has really been a pleasure to work with someone who has all the strengths that Shanté has and to be part of her success,” said Samuel Rowser, executive director of On Point for College. “There are lots of Shantés out there. If you just give them a little help, they can shine.”