Published on May 3, 2019 by Sarah Waller  
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Samford University’s College of Health Sciences held its spring commencement ceremony for its graduate programs May 3, presenting master’s and doctoral degrees to 319 graduates from the college’s four schools: School of Health Professions, Ida Moffett School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy and School of Public Health

Addressing their peers, professors, family and friends, four student speakers, representing each of the schools, spoke on the topic of calling as it relates to their personal and professional lives.

While each speaker approached the topic from their own perspective, a common theme developed—turning the attention away from their own accomplishments to bring awareness to the individuals they will now care for and serve.

“As social workers, we are called to start where the client is,” said Rebecca Graber, the first graduate of the joint Master of Social Work and Master of Arts in Theological Studies program with the School of Public Health and Beeson Divinity School. “We have to leave the familiar and the comfort of our own perspective to enter into the world of those we serve.” 

She charged her peers to recognize people’s inherent worth and dignity “because they have been created in the image of God,” she said. “Our calling is to help them see that, to be means of grace, and to show them the strengths that they already possess.” 

Taylor King, a Master of Science in Nursing, nurse anesthesia graduate from Ida Moffett School of Nursing, shared that she has known her calling for a very long time. “My calling came in the pursuit of an ideal—advocacy,” she said. “Whether your title is registered nurse, nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist, we are all connected by the common stewardship to uphold our patients' best interests.” 

King explained that as patients prepare to go under anesthesia, they are entering into one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. “We are entrusted to represent their wishes as if they were our own. This awesome responsibility is nothing short of a privilege, and I am humbled every day when I am reminded of that in the operating room.”

The degrees these graduates earn enhance their professional lives, enabling them to take the next step in their careers, but the work that led them to this point did not come easy. 

“I’ve reminisced on the failures, setbacks and moments of doubt that I faced prior to making the decision to attend graduate school, as well as obstacles met throughout my program,” said Shanequia Burress, a graduate from the School of Health Professions’ Master of Science in respiratory care program.

“Yet I am fortunate to remember why I decided to pursue a graduate degree in respiratory care. I remembered the fact that I never had the opportunity to see my oldest brother’s face since he died of asthma as a child. I remembered that my light and purpose is something unique and valued,” she said. “Always remind yourself of who you are, why you’ve endured all that you have, and that God’s plan for your life is perfect.”

Mark Gilliam, a Doctor of Pharmacy graduate from McWhorter School of Pharmacy, echoed Burress’ words, encouraging his peers to take this reminder a step further. “Allow yourself time for introspection—to remember the spark that lit your passion for patient care—then write it down. Read it every day so that you can take your new position and actively pursue your calling. It won’t come easy, but those things worth pursuing never do.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.