This time of year, with graduation ceremonies taking place and excitement in the air, one naturally focuses on the future. Whether we are graduating from one of GW’s health sciences or Ph.D. programs, completing medical school or residency, preparing for the incoming residents, or even turning in an annual report as a faculty member — we all have our eyes on what lies ahead. For many of us, it is a time to celebrate our successes, seize new opportunities, and create the future.
As I reflect on my own graduation from GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) in May 1981, I remember deans Bowles and Keimowitz outlining the amazing opportunities that were ahead of us at the time. Their optimistic words of wisdom sent us off into a world that I now realize is much more unpredictable than I imagined that afternoon. In the following years, health care would experience unimaginable challenges, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as major medical advances, including robots in the operating room. We would begin to realize the promise of genomics and personalized medicine.
Each year, our commencement speakers impress upon our graduates the importance of their roles as health professionals in society. They reflect upon the incredible accomplishments each graduate has already attained. They talk about the future, the path to success, and the exciting opportunities that await graduates. And as always, our graduates will transition into a world with new diseases ahead, technologies that have yet to be created, and undiscovered treatments that will transform the field.
Yet, this is the most exciting time to be in medicine, health care, and biomedical science. There will be challenges, of course, in the form of sequestration and cuts to NIH funding, along with new models of care and reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act — challenges unforeseen to classes of the past. However, with full confidence, I can assure our graduates that they not only will be prepared for the ever-changing health care landscape and scientific landscape, but they also have the knowledge, skills, and creativity to embrace these challenges and create the future of medicine and health care.
In addition to preparing students for the terrain ahead, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, as an institution, is also creating its own future. As you may know, in January, I was appointed as the vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In this new role, I have traveled extensively, discussing potential opportunities, seeking new partnerships, and looking for creative ways for alumni and friends of the school to get involved with and support SMHS. I have benefited enormously from meeting our alumni eager to share stories about their GW experiences and to offer input on how to navigate our institution through the next decade and beyond. With our remarkable 188-year history as a foundation, and with a dynamic constituency of students, residents, faculty, and alumni as supporters, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to lead the GW SMHS during this most exciting time to its next level of greatness.
Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, G.M.E. ’85 Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine and Health Sciences