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Nobel Laureate Addresses Record Number of Graduates


Cedars-Sinai's Class of 2019 with faculty and, from left to right in the front row, President and CEO Thomas M. Priselac, in red regalia; Nobel Laureate Randy W. Schekman, PhD, in blue; Dean of the Medical Faculty Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB; and Vice Dean of Research and Education Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH.

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences awarded a record number of advanced degrees at its 7th annual commencement, where a Nobel laureate urged the graduates to "tackle our greatest challenges" by sustaining their commitment to science despite political headwinds.

In an stirring commencement address, Randy W. Schekman, PhD, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, expressed confidence in the future of scientific inquiry. "I stand before you to proclaim that the state of science here and elsewhere in the country is as strong as ever," he said.

Schekman, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, singled out California's "vibrant biotech and philanthropic environment that sustains one of the most robust research environments in the world."


Nobel Laureate Randy W. Schekman, PhD, delivers the commencement address. 

The ceremony May 30 at Harvey Morse Auditorium awarded 25 degrees, the largest number since the Cedars-Sinai Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences held its first commencement in 2013. Five doctoral and 20 master's degrees were awarded, bringing the total number of degrees awarded by the graduate school to 65.

"Cedars-Sinai excels at scientific rigor," said 2019 graduate Dustin Srinivas, PhD, prior to the ceremony. "I've never seen an institution that is so collaborative between clinicians and researchers. It really gives us an edge."

Srinivas was one of the five doctoral graduates who were honored this year. Each has participated in notable research on a wide range of disorders and medical issues, including neurodegenerative diseases, pediatric brain tumors, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases and cancer.

The master's graduates were the first from two new programs, both started in 2017. The master's degree in health delivery science offers an advanced curriculum in measuring and improving the value of healthcare. The master of science in magnetic resonance in medicine focuses on how magnetic resonance imaging is applied to biomedical research and medicine.

President and CEO Thomas M. Priselac told the graduates: "You are to be commended for your intellectual discipline, for making the personal sacrifices that come with this level of scholarship and for choosing a calling that will change many lives for the better."

In introducing Schekman, Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, dean of the medical faculty and professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, called him "a global champion for the vitality and integrity of scientific publishing" who combined "true scholarship as well as responsible behavior."

During his address to the gradutates, Schekman also outlined challenges to the scientific endeavor today. "In the new federal political environment, we face an administration determined to cut budgets and diminish the influence of science in public policy," he said. He also cited "a new skepticism, grounded in the politics of energy and commerce, challenging the consensus scientific view that our climate is influenced by human activity."

Despite these hurdles, Schekman said he believes Congress will continue to authorize substantial increases in National Institutes of Health funding in the years ahead, noting that "disease knows no political boundaries." He concluded by telling the graduates: "We may sustain a temporary setback here in the U.S., but the march of progress fueled by the scientific method will advance and ultimately tackle our greatest challenges. These are the challenges and opportunities that you now face. So go for it!"

The ceremony also saw the presentation of three awards:

  • Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM)—Paul W. Noble, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute
  • David L. Rimoin Teaching Excellence Award—Jonathan Kaye, PhD, vice chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine
  • Lifetime Acheivement Award—James S. Forrester, MD, former director of the Cedars-Sinai Division of Cardiology and former Burns and Allen Chair in Cardiology Research.

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences was founded in 2007 and earned accreditation in 2012. The rigorous program combines basic scientific and medical understanding with an emphasis on research that is relevant to preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases. The school is supported by a robust Department of Biomedical Sciences and a diverse faculty of physicians and investigators who provide world-class training in state-of-the-art laboratories.