In his final address to his classmates, the Class of 2013’s president, Dusty Anderson, spoke to his “soon-to-be-colleagues” of the role they have played in the medical school’s 175-year tradition. He asked them to think back to “four years ago at Roll Call – the first time the Class of 2013 was assembled.” He reminded them more than 6,200 applicants had vied for their seat in the medical school and had dreamed of sitting with the Class of 2013 at graduation.

The Commencement ceremony was held Friday, May 10, 2013, in VCU’s Siegel Center. Families and faculty members alike gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class.

The Convocation address was given by patient safety advocate Sorrel King. “Sometimes it takes a story to transform a culture,” she told the graduates as she related a personal account of the medical errors that led to the death of her 18-month-old daughter in 2001.

In the wake of Josie’s death, Mrs. King learned medical errors are the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and from her experience grew a determination to protect others. As president of the Josie King Foundation, she travels the country speaking to hospitals, doctors, nurses, CEOS and others in the hope that Josie’s story will inspire change. Through her stories as well as her words, she challenged her audience to turn future losses and disappointments into something that can help others.

Graduation weekend also marked the conclusion of training for students with advanced degrees, including 57 students who have earned doctoral degrees, the school’s highest total in its history.

The steady growth seen in the production of Ph.D. graduates, noted Jan F. Chlebowski, Ph.D., the medical school’s associate dean for graduate education, mirrors the arrival on campus of Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D.

At the ceremony recognizing the achievements of the advanced degree graduates and graduate students, Strauss recalled the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik into space. That success sparked not only his own interest in science but also a geopolitical competition among scientists.

He sees a different climate today. “When I look across the globe,” he noted, “I see opportunities that didn’t exist years ago: opportunities that result from collaborations across disciplines, across continents, across nations.”  

What hasn’t changed, he said, is the excitement of the Eureka moment and “the internal drive of discovery that makes sciences so exceptional.”