May 10, 2011

Medical school commencement set for May 21

Commencement exercises for the 37th graduating class of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will be held at noon Saturday, May 21. The ceremony will be in the Sangamon Auditorium at University of Illinois Springfield.

The commencement speaker is Dr. G. Scott Morris, founder and executive director of the Church Health Center in Memphis, which opened in 1987 to provide quality, affordable healthcare for working, uninsured people and their families. Using a base of financial support from the faith community and volunteers from the medical and dental community, the center has grown to become the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the country, with care provided for more than 55,000 patients without relying on government funding.

The Church Health Center Wellness, the center's 80,000-square-foot, comprehensive wellness ministry, offers everything from personalized exercise plans and cooking classes to group exercise classes and activities for children and teens. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on family size and income. More than 100,000 member visits are recorded annually.

Morris earned his divinity degree from Yale University and his medical degree from Emory University. He is board certified in family medicine and ordained as a United Methodist minister.

During the ceremony, Sara Rubenacker, class chair from McLeansboro, will deliver remarks on behalf of the graduates. Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, Ph.D., dean and provost, will award diplomas to the medical students. SIUC Chancellor Rita H. Cheng will confer the degrees.

Several awards will be presented including Distinguished Alumni Awards to Dr. Amber Barnhart, professor of family and community medicine at SIU and class of 1981, and Dr. Gordon L. Grado, founder and medical director of the Southwest Oncology Centers in Arizona, Wurtele Family Professor of therapeutic radiology and radiation oncology at University of Minnesota and class of 1977. The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards to one faculty member and one graduating senior will be announced.

The new SIU physicians will begin residency training in their chosen specialty fields in July. SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community. Established in 1970, the medical school is based in Carbondale and Springfield and is specifically oriented to educating new physicians prepared to practice in Illinois communities. Since 1975, 2,337 physicians, plus the 2011 graduates, have earned SIU medical degrees. The medical school’s website is