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Harvard Medical School announced Wednesday that astronaut, chemical engineer, and surgeon Robert L. Satcher Jr. will be the keynote speaker for the 2020 Medical School and Dental School Class Day ceremonies.
The Medical School will hold this year’s Commencement and Class Day exercises virtually on May 28, and expects to host in-person celebrations at a later date.
Satcher graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1994, a year after receiving his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT. He joined NASA’s Class of 2004, shortly after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
Satcher became the first orthopedic surgeon to travel in space when he took part in an 11-day mission on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009. On the mission, he repaired International Space Station equipment and served as the crew’s medical doctor.
In the Medical School press release, Satcher said this year’s graduation is “notable” as it will be the first held virtually and “the future is more uncertain than most are accustomed to.”
"There has never been a more obvious need for our profession,” Satcher said in the press release. “Not only in caring for those afflicted from coronavirus but also in providing leadership in how to best strategize to manage health care as we move forward."
Satcher is now an associate professor of orthopedic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he specializes in treating skeletal metastatic disease, teleoncology, and applying technology to improve surgical outcomes.
Satcher co-founded the eHealth Research Institute, a collaboration between Rice University, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and MD Anderson aimed at expanding specialized healthcare access.
He is also working on building a cancer center in sub-Saharan Africa with the MD Anderson Global Oncology enterprise.
“Dr. Satcher is a dynamic role model to so many of us and embodies exactly what leadership is all about,” Medical School Dean for Students Fidencio Saldaña said in the announcement. “We know that students, faculty and staff alike will be proud, encouraged, uplifted and inspired by hearing from Dr. Satcher, while his words will help send the graduates into the world of medicine with strength and poise for the challenges ahead.”
—Staff writer Virginia L. Ma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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