Gopal delivers winter commencement address

December 18, 2017

“Be audacious in your pursuits, but not in a flashy, shallow way,” Satish Gopal, MD, MPH, told graduates at UNC’s winter commencement ceremony at the Dean Smith Center on Dec. 17.

Dr. Satish Gopal, alumnus and adjunct faculty member at the Gillings School and cancer program director for UNC Project-Malawi, delivered the winter 2017 commencement address on Dec. 17. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Dr. Satish Gopal, alumnus and adjunct faculty member at the Gillings School and cancer program director for UNC Project-Malawi, delivered the winter 2017 commencement address on Dec. 17. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Gopal, a UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health alumnus, is adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School, associate professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, and cancer program director of UNC Project Malawi.

Gopal encouraged students to be bold but also to be “boring” – to invest time in daily reading, thinking, experimenting and evaluating. Without those skills, he said, “big, bold solutions…simply can’t be actualized.”

The ceremony marked the graduation of 491 undergraduates, 567 master’s degree students, 99 doctoral students and nine professional students. Chancellor Carol L. Folt presided, with a platform party of representatives from the UNC Board of Governors, the University Board of Trustees and the General Alumni Association.

A livestream presentation allowed people in Lilongwe, Malawi, where it was 9 p.m., to share the experience.

“Friends and colleagues at our UNC program in Malawi are watching this…as we speak – 8,000 miles and seven time zones away — which is important simply as testament to the amazing interconnectedness and reach of the global UNC family,” said Gopal.

He spoke of his work treating and studying cancer in Malawi, where he and his family have lived since 2012. His work and that of his colleagues in the small country in southern Africa is relevant to the Tar Heel state, he said.

“In Malawi, we have opportunities to exhaustively study cancers that occur rarely in North Carolina, to uncover fundamental biologic insights about why cancer occurs and to think about entirely new ways to diagnose and treat cancer that could benefit the entire world if successful,” Gopal said.

“I feel completely humbled by how important my UNC institutional family has been,” he said, “providing an unconditionally supportive tether, which has given me confidence to wander all around the world doing random things.”

Video of the ceremony is available here.

A longer version of this article, written by Susan Hudson, originally appeared Dec. 17 on the UNC website.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu