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Stanford Report, May 17, 2000

Basic and clinical researchers will share commencement podium  


Two eminent faculty members -- Stanley Falkow, PhD, and Norman Shumway, MD, PhD -- were selected by students and faculty as dual speakers for Stanford School of Medicine's commencement in a process that Eugene Bauer, MD, vice president for the medical center and dean of the medical school, said should make the graduation process more personal and meaningful for all participants.

Commencement 2000 is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Sunday, June 11, on the Dean's Lawn. As of this week, 93 MD and 94 MS and PhD graduates are scheduled to be honored, said Zera Murphy, director of student life.

Falkow, professor of microbiology and immunology, and Shumway, the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor in Cardiovascular Disease, were chosen by students and faculty in response to Bauer's request for speakers who "would offer the best advice to those embarking on careers in science and medicine."

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Traditionally, Stanford commencement speakers have been invited from the outside, although last year Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Arthur Kornberg, MD, an emeritus faculty member, spoke to the graduates.

Bauer said the choice of two speakers -- one from the basic sciences, the other from a clinical discipline -- was done "to make the gathering a more significant event for all our graduating students."

Shumway, often regarded as the father of heart transplantation, performed the first adult heart transplant in the United States on Jan. 6, 1968. The first such operation occurred in South Africa four months earlier, but it was Shumway's research in the 1950s and beyond that made the procedure viable. In the 1970s, after many centers abandoned transplantation because of high mortality and morbidity, Shumway and his team persevered until the procedure today is considered routine therapy.

Among his innovations were improvements in preventing rejection of the transplanted organ after surgery and better methods for keeping donated hearts viable until they can be transported to recipients. At a dinner in 1993 honoring Shumway's career, Stanford President Gerhard Casper called Shumway "an innovative pioneer who provided the scientific background for the heart transplant procedure."

Shumway, who has won numerous awards for his research and patient care achievements, joined the Stanford faculty in 1958. He chaired the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery from 1974 to 1992.

Falkow came to Stanford in 1981 as chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology, a post he held for four years until stepping aside to devote himself to full-time research and teaching. He is recognized throughout the world for his observations related to molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. This is the study of how bacteria infect a host, find a safe place to live hidden from the host's defenses, and then replicate. In 1986 he was named to the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1997 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine.

A recent past president of the American Society for Microbiology, Falkow has been consistently active as a teacher and mentor.

Several features were added to this year's commencement ceremonies to provide greater recognition of the half of the class that pursues basic science careers. For the first time, MS and PhD students will be "hooded" -- the placement of the scarf that indicates the graduate's school -- by their faculty mentors. Bauer hopes this symbolic act, undertaken at many universities, will become a Stanford tradition.

A service award recipient will be selected by vote of the medical school faculty, as well as all MS and PhD graduates, Bauer said. The award will honor a faculty member who exemplifies outstanding service on behalf of graduate students. These services could be provided behind the scenes to improve the quality of the Stanford experience in such areas as policy, admissions, new programs or advocacy, he said.

MS and PhD students will also vote on a teaching award.

The service and teaching honors are in addition to the traditional faculty awards presented at graduation, which honor outstanding practitioners of clinical medicine, exemplary service, outstanding teaching and contributions to medical education.

Other changes in 2000 include two post-commencement champagne receptions -- one for new MDs and one for basic science graduates -- in addition to the traditional lunch for all graduates, their families and guests. SR