Speak for poor, Elders tells UMAB graduates

May 21, 1994|By From Staff Reports Contributing writer Alex Gordon provided information for this article.

Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders yesterday reminded graduates of the University of Maryland at Baltimore that they should try to make life better for those who are less fortunate.

"You graduates sitting before me have a responsibility," she said at the afternoon gathering at the Baltimore Arena.

"You must be the voice for the poor and the powerless," said Dr. Elders, who was born the daughter of a sharecropper in rural Arkansas.

"You've got to use every opportunity that comes along to make a difference," she said. "My husband is always talking about opportunity like being hair on a bald-headed man -- they only go around once."

The pediatrician and former medical school professor called for effective birth control and universal access to medical care.

In an indirect pitch for President Clinton's health-care reform plan, she told the class of 1994 that it is entering a world of medicine that is facing enormous change. "The challenges before you are greater than in any other graduating class," Dr. Elders said. "You represent the new frontier of our health care system.

"We've got to focus on prevention," she said. "We can't continue to just intervene."

UMAB awarded 1,617 degrees yesterday. Of those, 485 were professional degrees -- 267 in law, 129 in medicine, 81 in dentistry and eight in pharmacy.

The university bestowed 65 doctorates. Of 569 master's degrees, 367 were in social work. The 498 bachelor's degrees were awarded in nursing, pharmacy, dental hygiene, medical technology and physical therapy.

The university awarded honorary degrees to Dr. Elders; Gov. William Donald Schaefer; Harold H. Wolf, a leader in pharmacy education; Social Security Commissioner Shirley S. Chater, and Lisbeth Schorr, author of "Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage." Among the official guests was Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

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