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"Photograph 51" Dramatist Tells Graduates: Teamwork Pays

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science held its 102nd Commencement Celebration on June 3 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, conferring 650 graduate degrees in numerous biomedical and healthcare disciplines.

Award-winning playwright Anna Ziegler, who delivered the commencement address,  praised the university, which in 2004 took the name of scientist Rosalind Franklin, PhD, whose research led to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

"What a wise and singular school this is to focus its identity around such a complicated person, someone who does not represent the cult of celebrity at which so many worship these days but conversely, sacrificed personal success in the name of professional integrity, in the name of doing science in the way she felt was right," said Ms. Ziegler, whose play "Photograph 51," starring Nicole Kidman, drew rave reviews in its London debut in 2015 and is set to open on Broadway this fall.

Ms. Ziegler, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, said Dr. Franklin was one of her personal heroes.

"She was smart and driven and she defied the prevailing sexist ethos of the 40s and 50s and became a successful female scientist, almost an oxymoron in those days," said Ms. Ziegler, who urged graduates to emulate Dr. Franklin by valuing "process over product" and deriving deep satisfaction from their work.

"If there is a single lesson my play imparts, it’s that teamwork pays," Ms. Ziegler said.

"Risk really working with each other," she said. "Risk the frustration and pain of it. Risk the loss of independence and perfection in the name of listening to someone else."

Founded in 1912, Rosalind Franklin University is a pioneer in the interprofessional education of future physicians and healthcare providers, who learn to work together as members of healthcare teams.

President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch called graduates, who represented a multitude of professions, including physicians, scientists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and psychologists, "the guardians of the health of our society."

"Our nation continues to experience great changes in the delivery of health care and it's becoming clear that professionals from multiple disciplines, working in teams, are essential to the delivery of safe, affordable health care," said Dr. Welch, who told graduates:  "The interprofessional learning experience you've had with us, will serve you well as leaders of collaborative, patient-centered care."

Also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, was Rosalind Franklin, a longtime trustee of the university and niece of Dr. Franklin, who said the university honors her aunt’s legacy through the excellence and quality of its academic inquiry, a hallmark of Dr. Franklin’s work.

"It is my sincerest hope that my aunt’s work and story continues to inspire and influence generations of young people, future RFU students, and to spark their interest in science," Ms. Franklin said. "As a woman scientist, her story personifies the commitment and dedication required to remain focused and succeed despite often challenging and difficult circumstances."

The university will award a total of 730 degrees in 2016 to graduates of its five schools and colleges: Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Posted June 3, 2016
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