Milken graduates urged to remain passionate, persistent in public health careers

Media Credit: Sarah Urtz | Assistant Photo Editor

Student speaker Taiba Zahir urged graduates “become revolutionaries" in their work.

Speakers charged graduates to find passion in their work at the Milken Institute School of Public Health commencement celebration Thursday.

Public health school Dean Lynn Goldman addressed about 1,000 graduates in the Smith Center about their ability to enact change through medicine and the challenges they can expect after graduation.

She encouraged graduates to stay connected as alumni, to keep their creativity and to remember why they chose a career in public health.

“I am sorry the earlier generations have left so much work that needs to be done to protect and maintain our needs,” Goldman said. “We now depend on you to heal this world. Never become discouraged and every day, with your actions, you will make this world a better place.”

LaQuandra Nesbitt, the keynote speaker and the director of the D.C. Department of Health, said work in the public health field is “long and hard” and requires a commitment to “those who have lost faith in humanity.”

“I’ve learned a simple saying, ‘I am not making it complicated – health simply is complicated,’ and the reason health is complicated is that it requires a societal commitment to work together,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt said passion and persistence in graduates’ careers in public health will help students stand out among others in the field, especially at conferences where colleagues share their work.

“Remember to always be passionate about your programs, be persistent in your pursuit of excellence and walk in purpose in your position,” she said.

Taiba Zahir, the student speaker who graduated with a master’s in global health policy, challenged graduates to seek justice while they work after graduation and to “become revolutionaries.”

“Are we out of our minds? Are we nuts? Yeah, we are,” she said. “But tell me which revolutionary has not been told they were too optimistic or that they were crazy?”

Zahir pressed her classmates to turn their passions into movements, referencing past advancements in finding the cure for smallpox and identifying the negative health effects of tobacco.

“Crazy was eradicating smallpox, crazy was going up against big tobacco corporations, crazy was an NBA player creating a free school for at-risk youth, crazy was marching for desegregation and voting rights – so let’s be crazy,” she said.

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