Graduating Class is Picture of Good Health

Rush University celebrates new group of health care leaders

Three B’s: be accountable, be empathetic and be courageous.

That message drove the lively and powerful address delivered by honorary degree recipient Christopher Howard, DPhil, MBA, to the more than 800 graduating students honored at Rush University’s 45th commencement ceremony May 25.

“As you go through internships, residencies and fellowships, and take on more responsibility, accountability doesn’t stop when people aren’t looking,” says Howard, president of Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh, speaking to graduates from each of the University’s four colleges. “There is a young boy or young girl looking at you, and they want to be just like you. So be accountable.”

Howard gave a speech that drew from his vast experience as a leader in higher education, the military and athletics. He was a Rhodes Scholar as a doctoral student at the University of Oxford and received the Bronze Star for gallantry in battle during his service in Afghanistan as part of the Air Force Reserve after 9/11.

“You are the infantry of empathy. You are at the front lines of human concern,” says Howard, explaining the second of his three B’s. “Not sympathy, but empathy. You might have a patient who can’t speak your tongue. Empathy because you realize someone has been dealt the most difficult news of their entire lives, and you have to tell it to them. Empathy because you are Rush University graduates, and you are special. So be empathetic.”

Then Howard recounted ejecting from a T-37 jet during training at an Air Force base near San Antonio in 1995. He relied on his training in the face of a life-threatening event, and he asked Rush’s Class of 2017 to be just as strong in the years ahead as he explained his third B:

“As leaders in the health care professions, you’ll be asked to make sacrifices,” he says. “You’ll be asked to put yourself in harm’s way. You will have to have moral, emotional, spiritual and even physical courage to do your jobs. And you can do it. Trust your training, trust your education and trust your preparedness. But do be courageous.”

Howard, whose service to his country began as a helicopter pilot in the Air Force, was speaking to a group of students that included Rush Medical College graduate Sara “Ellie” Warren, who will begin her medical residency in the U.S. Navy this summer. Read more about Warren’s story, inspiration and goals.

And take in the sights and sounds of Howard’s speech, and all of the joy and excitement of the students, their mentors and their families:

  • Watch the entire ceremony.
  • Visit our Facebook page to view a photo gallery and our Flickr page for even more photos.
  • Search for the hashtag #rushgrad2017 on Twitter and Instagram to see participants share their feelings and photos.
  • Read a Q&A series with Howard to learn more about his thoughts on leadership, making decisions under pressure, community service and the power of social media.

Larry Goodman, MD, president of Rush University; and Thomas Deutsch, MD, provost of Rush University, presided over the ceremony and awarded degrees to students graduating from the University’s four colleges: Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College. They were surrounded by all of the many faculty and staff members at Rush University who work together to provide students with an atmosphere where they can flourish.

Among them was the Reverend Clayton L. Thomason, JD, MDiv, chairperson of the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values, College of Health Sciences, whose message captured the day’s essence:

“If you could capture all the joy in this room and carry it with you, how would you change the world?”