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57 graduates earn medical degrees from CMSRU, head off to residencies nationwide

Be grateful. Take care of yourself. Know your true north.

Those were some of the messages Dr. Robert J. Laskowski related to members of the second graduating class of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) during Commencement exercises on Friday, May 12.

The ceremony, the first for CMSRU on the University Green in Glassboro, was a fitting, celebratory culmination of a mega Commencement Week at Rowan that included nine ceremonies over four days.

Altogether 57 CMSRU students earned their medical degrees from the Camden-based school. They are headed to residencies that include, among many others, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University Medical Center, Cooper University Hospital, Boston University Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Temple University Hospital.

Robert Laskowski, MD, past chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges Board of Directors and retired president and CEO of Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Delaware, was this year’s commencement speaker.

“CMSRU, I know, is a unique place,” Laskowski told the graduates during his keynote address. “Its mission statement clearly grounds medicine as an expression of humanity at its best.

“The aim of the medical school is a humanistic one—to educate physicians to compassionately bring the benefits of science to heal and comfort and guide fellow human beings and to help others have a physical and mental capacity to lead lives fully of their own choosing. We physicians…we are humanists first.”

Laskowski said medicine is “a highly personal undertaking.” The new doctors should never lose sight of why they chose their career paths, he said.

“Only you know the history to your own reasons for being who you are as a doctor,” said Laskowski, a well-known educator, consultant, writer and retired physician executive who serves as principal of Laskowski Advisors—a consultancy devoted to assisting healthcare organizations and professionals innovate through understanding value.

“And only you can know your true north.”

He reminded the class to maintain their own health as they cared for others.

“Our focus on well-being needs to be broad to include one’s physical, mental and spiritual health. And this focus needs to extend to the relationships we have with others, especially those we love and those who love us,” said Laskowski, who accepted the Medal of Excellence for Distinguished Service from CMSRU in recognition of his exceptional career as a physician, medical educator, health care administrator and advocate.

Gratefulness—toward patients, colleagues and loved ones—is a key attribute to a successful career in medicine, added Laskowski.

CMSRU Interim Dean Dr. Annette C. Reboli asked the new doctors to bring their “A” games to every bedside, every day.

“Always do what’s right for the patient. Even if you are tired, even if others disagree, even if you don’t get compensated, even if it’s not technically ‘your’ patient—do what’s right,” Reboli said. “Medicine is a noble profession. Hospitals and operating rooms are sacred places. Miracles happen in them every day.”

Led by grand marshal Dr. Edward D. Viner, Rowan administrators, CMSRU faculty members, Congressman Donald Norcross and Camden Mayor Dana Redd processed with graduates onto the University Green for the brisk early-evening ceremony under cloudy skies.

Students received their doctoral hoods from the directors of their advisory colleges. They were led in the Hippocratic Oath by Dr. William Kocher, assistant dean for curriculum at CMSRU.

In speaking to her fellow doctors, Student Government Association President Aneta Pariaszveski harkened back to her interview day at CMSRU. School officials, she said, were more interested in knowing if candidates embraced CMSRU’s humanistic mission, not whether they had medical acumen.

 “The school simply wanted to see if we were good people,” said Pariaszveski, who is headed to a pediatrics residency at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine/Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “The qualities that make us good people will shape us as good doctors.”