As reported by The Hartford Courant, May 15, 2006.

Woman's 'Long Journey' Ends with Medical Degree

Four Colleges, Universities Confer Degrees

By Kathleen Megan

"Sorry, I sort of missed your graduation," Isaac Bloodworth told his mother, Sherene Mason-Bloodworth, as she exited a tent after graduation Sunday from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

Isaac, 10, had gotten a little bored with the ceremony and took a break to play games inside the health center.

But Mason-Bloodworth didn't mind. After all, Isaac had been alongside her from her first days at medical school. He was in first grade when she started her medical studies, and on days when he didn't have school, he would often sit beside her in class for as long as two or three hours.

Were those days difficult? No, Isaac said. He'd just sit and draw. On school days, he and his mother would do their homework together at night. "I always tried to set a good example for him," Mason-Bloodworth said.

For Mason-Bloodworth and her husband, Earl Bloodworth of New Haven, Sunday's commencement was what Earl called the culmination of "a long journey and wishes of a big dream."

Sherene Mason-Bloodworth had wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl in Jamaica, because she enjoyed doing community service and helping people.

Mason-Bloodworth, who received an award for excellence in medical studies, said she couldn't imagine a better gift for Mother's Day than getting the medical degree, and a master's in business administration. "It's a very proud day," said Bloodworth, who will serve a residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The 76 physicians and 45 dentists who received degrees Sunday in a rain-chilled tent in Farmington heard from several speakers who described the new era of medicine into which they are entering. Dr. Peter J. Deckers, dean of the school of medicine and executive vice president for health affairs, said it is an era of "molecular medicine, molecular diagnosis and molecular treatment," in which the prevention of disease will focus on populations of patients - rather than just on individuals.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the graduation speaker and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., said the study of the genome is "not at the end, but at the end of the beginning." Medical science is "finally in the genome era," he said, "and it will transform the practices of medicine."

Collins, who received an honorary doctorate Sunday, is recognized for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the genome project, which resulted in the completion of a finished sequence of the human genetic blueprint. The genes that cause cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria were discovered in his laboratory.

He is also known for his emphasis of ethical and legal issues in genetics.

Science is on the brink of identifying hereditary factors involved in cancer, heart disease, asthma, hypertension, mental illness and diabetes, Collins said. No longer will it be "one size fits all medicine," he said. It will be "medicine that is personal, preventative and pre-emptive."

With all the excitement over research and medical science, Collins said, it is important not to forget what he called "the four food groups of a balanced life."

The first is the professional side. Collins told of going to Nigeria, where he envisioned himself as being able to make a difference. But when he got there, he found himself challenged and with few resources to treat a farmer with a serious heart problem.

He was feeling discouraged when the farmer said to him: "You came here for just one reason. You came here for me."

"It's easy to have grand plans," said Collins, "but remember, a lot of what happens, happens one person at a time."

Next, Collins talked about the spiritual dimension. "A physician struggles every day with profound questions," he said. "Why do terrible diseases happen to nice people?"

He said his view of spiritual matters is not in conflict with the "rigorous show-me-the-data-scientist" point of view.

Third is the area of love - love for humankind, as well as romantic love.

Finally, he said, the fourth important area of life is fun.

With that he pulled out a folk guitar and sang about medical student life (to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "My Way"), during which professors forced him to do it "their way" until he graduated and became a professor.

"Where once I was oppressed, I've now become the cruel oppressor," Collins sang. "And yes, you'll learn it's best, to do it my way !"

For that bit of humor, Collins received a standing ovation.

Abhishek Chatterjee, a graduate from Woodstock with a medical degree and a master's in business administration, called Collins an inspired speaker. "He still keeps the most important thing right in front of him," Chatterjee said. "Always take care of the individual patient."

UConn was one of four colleges and universities holding commencement ceremonies in the state Sunday.

At its 83rd commencement exercises, Albertus Magnus College in New Haven awarded 795 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Tomoko Takahasi, official translator of the books of the late Rosa Parks into Japanese and an alumnus of Albertus Magnus, was the graduation speaker. Takahashi, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Soka University of America, met Parks in 1992.

Quinnipiac University School of Law conferred degrees to 196 students in Hamden. Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille addressed the class.

In a separate ceremony, Quinnipiac presented master's degrees to 476 students. These included students from the schools of business, communications, health sciences and education. Burt Saxon of New Haven, Connecticut's 2005-06 teacher of the year, addressed the students.

In Fairfield, Sacred Heart University presented degrees to undergraduates at the school's 40th commencement.