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Former U.S. Surgeon General Speaks at Stanbridge University's 2017 Commencement
Stanbridge University welcomed Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General to speak to its graduating class of 2017, offering them inspiration and motivation to push ahead and continue their professional journey toward care and service.
Dr. Elders was the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology. She was also a Vice Admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the first African American—and second female—appointed as Surgeon General of the United States, with the appointment from President Bill Clinton in 1993. She has been an outspoken advocate of public health her entire career.
"Dr. Elders has contributed greatly to our country," Stanbridge President Yasith Weerasuriya said. "She has overcome extreme adversity, and risen to prominence in medicine, leading to her appointment as United States Surgeon General. We were honored by her presence with us at the 2017 commencement, and inspired by her words."
"It is always a pleasure for me to speak to bright young people who want to make a difference in the world during their lifetime," Dr. Elders said. "I had so many people who inspired me when I was young, and it is an honor to have an opportunity to help young people meet the challenges in their lives as opportunities."
Dr. Elders was born to a poverty-stricken cotton sharecropping family in Arkansas and is now recognized as one of the most influential women in American public health history. After she received her B.S. in Biology, she spent three years in the United States Army, where she was trained as a physical therapist. With the help of the G.I. Bill, she attended the University of Arkansas Medical School, where she obtained her M.D. degree in 1960. Although the Supreme Court had declared "separate but equal" education unconstitutional two years earlier, Elders was still required to use a separate dining room in medical school—where the cleaning staff ate. During her residency at the University of Arkansas, Elders was appointed chief resident, in charge of the all-white, all-male residents, and interns, where her strength, tolerance, and determination were tested constantly. She became an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university's Medical School in 1971, and full professor in 1976.
Dr. Elders has spent her entire life fighting for her right to contribute to this world in a meaningful way. In 1987, then-Governor Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Elders as Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, making her the first African American woman in the state to hold this position. Some of her major accomplishments while in office include reducing the teen pregnancy rate, nearly doubling the immunization rate for two-year-olds in Arkansas, and expanding the availability of HIV testing and counseling services, breast cancer screenings, as well as better hospice care for the elderly and terminal patients. She also worked hard to promote the importance of sex education, proper hygiene, and prevention of substance abuse in public schools.
At the 2017 Stanbridge Commencement, Dr. Elders spoke about the hard work and dedication that is required to rise to the top of her field, and the trials and tribulations that she had to overcome to reach her goals, and the importance of the perseverance that is needed in the graduates that sat in front of her. She inspired the graduates with her own stories of overcoming insurmountable hardships to complete her educational and professional goals, and called upon the graduates to continue pushing forward toward their careers in healthcare with courage, dedication, and humility.
About Stanbridge University
Founded in 1996, Stanbridge University offers specialized degrees at the Master, Bachelor, and Associate levels in the fields of Nursing and Allied Health. Stanbridge is based in Irvine, California with an annual enrollment of over 1,600 students. For each year from 2009 through 2015, Stanbridge has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. In 2017, Stanbridge University was awarded the 2017 School of the Year Award by California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS) for outstanding educational practices among higher education institutions. In 2016, Stanbridge University was awarded the Gold Award for Excellence in Community Service from CAPPS for offering students quality higher education while simultaneously maintaining efforts to assist the local community. Stanbridge University has been selected as a 2014-2015 School of Excellence by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and also received its 2015 Excellence in Student Services Award for creating a comprehensive student services program that enhances student achievement outcomes. In 2013, Stanbridge University received the ACCSC Community Service Award for outstanding outreach to the local and global community. Institutional Research & Evaluation, Inc., has named Stanbridge University one of America's Best Technical Colleges for each year from 2009 through 2016. For more information, please visit www.stanbridge.edu or call (949) 794-9090.
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