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December 15. 2012 8:31PM

Graduates told to use shooting tragedy as inspiration to heal


Matthew Colllins of Auburn, Mass., receives his degree during the commencement ceremony for the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Tragedies such as Friday's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut can serve to inspire the 221 graduates of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to use their knowledge to heal people, the graduates were told during Saturday's commencement.

"You are about to enter the profession of healing," said commencement speaker Joseph W. McQuaid, president and Publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. "We have to understand there is evil in this world; always has been, always will be. But humanity can rise above evil by using your gifts and by using what you have been taught here."

The graduates are from the 11th class of students to be conferred postgraduate degrees from the school's Manchester campus, which was formed in 2002 after Notre Dame College's physician assistants program closed.

There were just 13 graduates that first year. On Saturday, an overflow crowd of nearly 2,000 watched the ceremony from two rooms at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester.

The college is based in Boston and has an additional campus in Worcester, Mass. Its initial offering of degrees for physician assistants has expanded to offer post-graduate degrees in nursing and dental hygiene, as well as a doctorate in pharmacy.

Saturday's graduates were from the physician assistant, dental hygiene and nursing programs. Of the 221 graduates, 44 are from New Hampshire, according to the school.

"Amazing," was how nursing graduate Erin Riley of Sutton, Mass., described her feelings. "I'm done with school, and I can work as a nurse."

Nursing graduate Thin Aung, whose family emigrated to the United States from Burma, said in her student address that the graduates need to remember the support from family and friends that got them where they are.

"It is the extra time that you took upon yourself to put the kids to bed so we could study or the shoulder you offered when we were stressed and under pressure," she said. "It was the little things that made all the difference in our lives."

Emily Knudsen, the student speaker for the graduating class of physician assistants, relayed advice from her mother, a physician, to remind her fellow graduates to keep any egos in check when dealing with the health of patients.

"I still ask my mom that same question, "What if there is something you don't know?'" Knudsen said. "Her answer is the same as it was two years ago. You rely on your colleagues, your peers. You ask questions if you don't know the answer, and, when in doubt, you look it up."

McQuaid, who was presented an honorary doctorate in science from the school, told the graduates they'd wisely chosen a career with a sound financial future.

"Health care is only going to expand with our aging population," he said. "Even if, or perhaps when, our government encroaches further into it with price controls and rationing and decision-making, it is still going to be where good jobs are."

McQuaid further encouraged the graduates to consider volunteering and giving back.

"Volunteering your time, talent and skills is something that is selfless and selfish at the same time," he said. "Selfless, of course, because it takes time and effort beyond the busy life you have made for yourself to help others. But it is selfish, too, in a good way. What you do for others strengthens the community, and it is that kind of community in which you will want to live."

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Tim Buckland may be reached at tbuckland@unionleader.com.


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