Max Essex gave the keynote address to the graduating class of 60 physicians at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine on Friday, May 6, 2016 in Huntington, West Virginia. Essex, the Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard, is a noted AIDS researcher and Chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative.
In his remarks, Essex reviewed the changing perception of infectious diseases. “Just a few decades ago, medical students were taught that infectious diseases would soon be a thing of the past. A vaccine eliminated smallpox and almost eliminated polio. But then came Lyme disease, Lassa, drug resistance, AIDS, and SARS.”
After describing how the HIV/AIDS epidemic has changed both medicine and public health, Essex ended with encouraging words for graduates. “We can conquer both these new epidemics and older infectious diseases with research, political will, and well-trained medical personnel—whom you are joining today.”
Matt Boyer, one of the graduating doctors, played a key role in bringing Essex to West Virginia. In 2011, Matt took science classes at Harvard Extension School to fulfill his prerequisites for medical school. During that period, he contacted HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, who invited him to work as a research coordinator at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) in Gaborone, Botswana for six months. Essex leads the BHP. Before Matt left for Africa, he briefly met with Essex in his Harvard office.
Matt started medical school at Edwards in 2012. Several months ago, the Dean invited students to suggest a speaker for their graduation. “I nominated Dr. Essex because his research career has improved the lives of many people worldwide,” said Matt.
At the ceremony, Matt introduced Essex to the audience of graduates, faculty, family and friends. Essex, after receiving an honorary Doctorate of Science and delivering his speech, reciprocated by hooding Matt as he received his Doctorate of Medicine. This summer, Matt will begin a residency in psychiatry at Hofstra Northwell Health in New York.
“I thought it would be useful for our medical school community to hear the perspective of a world-class researcher,” said Matt. “My hope was that Dr. Essex would deliver inspiring remarks as my classmates and I embark on our careers in medicine. He did not disappoint.”
Title photo by Sholten Singer, courtesy of The Herald-Dispatch