The University Record, May 6, 1998

'I look forward to working with you,' Satcher tells graduates

By Amy Reyes
News and Information Services

SatcherU.S. Surgeon General David Satcher challenged graduating students in the School of Public Health to never lose sight of their goals as they begin careers.

"I challenge you tonight to take with you the vision that has brought you to this point and to never sacrifice it in search of anything," he said.

Satcher addressed the school's 275 graduates and their families and friends who filled the Rackham Building Auditorium last week. He congratulated the school for its outstanding accomplishments in research and its contributions to improving the health of people around the world. He encouraged the graduates to continue to meet those standards as they embark on "new beginnings."

"We are in fact tied to our beginnings. Whether we talk about my beginnings back in rural Alabama and how it affects everything I do until this very day . . . Our beginnings are part of us," Satcher said.

Satcher was raised on a farm in rural Alabama. He nearly died from whooping cough as a child. His decision to pursue a career in public health was inspired by the physician who saved his life.

As surgeon general, Satcher said he will, in part, focus his efforts on giving children a healthy start in life.

"I want to make sure that every child born in this country has an opportunity for a healthy start in life. Parents have to be ready to be parents," he said.

He also will focus his attention on eliminating disparities in health among people of different ethnic groups. He will encourage Americans to take personal responsibility for their health.

Mental health issues also are at the top of his agenda. The surgeon general aims to promote understanding of mental health issues, which will be the subject of a surgeon general's report due next year.

"I guarantee you as you walk out of here tonight, together, we can shape the future. I look forward to working with you," Dr. Satcher said.

The School of Public Health is regarded as one of the finest institutions of its kind in the country, Dean Noreen M. Clark said. Jonas Salk studied here and discovered the polio vaccine here in 1955. In 1997, Hunein Maassab announced the discovery of the nasal spray influenza vaccine.

The school continues to carve new paths in the world of public health today. In 1996, it launched the first public health genetics curriculum, and the first public health genetics class graduated during the May 1 ceremony. Today, it also is focusing efforts on a Universitywide initiative exploring inequalities in health, and established this year the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health.

The caliber of the new graduating class reflects the school's tradition of success: 10 percent already hold advanced degrees, a number of the new graduates have been published in nationwide publications such as the New York Times and 14 presidents of the American Public Health Association have been U-M faculty or alumni.