Friday, June 5, 2020

Virtual Commencement Message for OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduates

One of my favorite activities of the year is Commencement, where we honor graduates of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), including those graduating from the OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program. This year’s annual OHSU Commencement ceremony has been moved to a virtual format, and will take place on Sunday, June 7, 2020 at 10 am. This posting contains the transcript of my video message to the Class of 2020 graduates of the OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the 2020 graduates of the OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program to this year’s virtual Commencement ceremony. The annual Commencement ceremony is an important event for me, as I enjoy every year celebrating the success of our graduates and their moving on to new paths in their lives. We have been awarding degrees and certificates from our program since 1998, and only once have I had to miss Commencement.

This year was already going to be a different Commencement ceremony. I would have attended the main event for all graduates with you all, but then would have not attended the OHSU School of Medicine Graduate Programs portion. That is because I would instead be attending another Commencement event, namely the medical student commencement because this year, as many of you know, my daughter is graduating OHSU with MD and MPH degrees. I am very proud of her and excited that she will be starting her residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at OHSU later this month.

Of course, now the entire Commencement is a different event for all of us, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for the entire ceremony to be virtual. I was hoping with all the rearranging that I still might get to share this time with you all, but alas, all of the follow-on ceremonies, including graduate programs and medicine, are scheduled immediately after the main session.

So this year you will get this brief message from me. I will miss the pomp and circumstance of graduation, and getting to wear regalia and march in the procession. Hopefully things will be back to normal next year, and perhaps some of you can return to take part then.

In any case, many of you are now stepping from your informatics studies into jobs where the contributions of our field are more critical than ever. Just as the pandemic has exposed problems in our healthcare system, it has also exposed limitations in our information and data systems. It is the mandate for all informatics graduates, and everyone else in the informatics field, to keep improving how we use information and data, not only to overcome Covid-19 but also to improve biomedicine and health generally. From bio- to imaging to clinical and public health informatics, the challenges have never been greater. I am confident that you have the talent, and skills you have acquired in your studies, to meet those challenges.

I am pleased to report that our alumni now number 782 individuals with 872 degrees and certificates dating back to 1998. These include 374 master’s degrees and 31 PhD degrees. Our graduates have achieved success in academia, industry, government, and just about every other place where informaticians work. Your success in your work and life generally is one of the main aspects of our work that gives faculty and staff great satisfaction.

Let me close as always to remind you that even though you are moving on from OHSU, we are still here for you and hope you will keep in touch with us as your careers develop and prosper.