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Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice to deliver Emory Commencement address
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Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

A renowned infertility specialist and researcher, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is the first woman to lead the Morehouse School of Medicine. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory.

Photo courtesy of Morehouse School of Medicine

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and CEO of the Morehouse School of Medicine, will deliver the keynote address at Emory University’s 179th Commencement, scheduled for Monday, May 13, on the Emory Quadrangle.

A renowned infertility specialist and researcher, Montgomery Rice is the first woman to lead the freestanding medical institution. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine and will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Emory during the Commencement ceremony. 

“Dr. Montgomery Rice’s achievements as a groundbreaking physician-scientist and university leader are an inspiration to so many in our great city and beyond,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “During her time as president and CEO, the Morehouse School of Medicine has flourished, solidifying its reputation as a powerhouse in the advancement of health equity. I cannot wait to welcome Dr. Montgomery Rice back to campus so we can present her with an honorary degree and hear her inspiring words and reflections.”

Throughout her career, Montgomery Rice has been a dedicated advocate for equity in health care access and outcomes, including diversifying the physician and scientific research workforce. Her previous roles include serving as the founding director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical College, one of the nation’s first research centers devoted to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color.

The Georgia native earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. Following her residency at Emory, she completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit.

“As I encourage the graduates in their next chapter, it gives me great pleasure to speak at Emory’s Commencement. It is my hope that the graduates will consider how to ensure their position at the table while making room for others to be heard and seen,” Montgomery Rice says. “Inclusion is not just about recognizing our differences; it also involves embracing them and utilizing those differences as a means of co-creating richer solutions to problems that affect us all. I look forward to helping them transition into a moment of hope filled with opportunity, as they make plans to navigate their future endeavors.”

President Joe Biden appointed Montgomery Rice to the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science in 2022. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Deans and the Horatio Alger Association.

Her numerous honors include the 2023 Scroll of Merit Award from the National Medical Association, 2017 Horatio Alger Award, the National Medical Association OB/GYN 2019 Legend of the Section Award, and multiple appearances in Georgia Trend Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians, among others. 

Her affiliations include participation on a variety of nonprofit and corporate boards, including the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board and boards of directors for UnitedHealth Group, Wellpath, 23&Me, Nemours, Chartis Health Equity Advisory Board, Georgia Research Alliance, CARE USA, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Institute. Additionally, she serves as a special adviser to the chair, CEO and board of directors of GeoVax Labs, Inc.

Honorary degree recipients

During the Commencement ceremony, Emory will also award honorary degrees to Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), and acclaimed violinist Robert McDuffie. 

Dr. Victor Dzau

Dzau, an internationally renowned physician-scientist, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree. A visionary leader who has developed initiatives to transform and improve health care locally and globally, he will also be the keynote speaker for the School of Medicine's MD Diploma Ceremony

Dzau’s seminal work in cardiovascular medicine and genetics laid the foundation for the development of the class of lifesaving drugs known as ACE inhibitors, used to treat hypertension and heart failure. He pioneered gene therapy for vascular disease and was the first to introduce DNA decoy molecules in humans in vivo. Under his tenure, the NAM has advanced efforts to improve health equity and address racism throughout its programmatic activities.

In addition to leading NAM, Dzau serves as vice chair of the National Research Council. He is chancellor emeritus and James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Duke University and the past president and CEO of the Duke University Health System.

Robert McDuffie

An Emmy award-winning violinist, McDuffie will receive an honorary doctor of music degree. While appearing as a soloist with renowned orchestras on five continents, he has also shared the stage with eclectic musicians such as R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills and Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell. Philip Glass dedicated his Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons, to McDuffie and he has performed it more than 100 times around the world.

In 2023, McDuffie received a Southeast Regional Emmy Award for “A Night of Georgia Music” with Mills, Leavell and the McDuffie Center for Strings ensemble, aired on PBS stations across the United States.

He is the founder of both the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy and the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in his native city of Macon, Georgia.

Emory University Commencement

Monday, May 13
8:30 a.m. | Emory Quadrangle

The Emory University Commencement Ceremony on the Quadrangle is a ticketed event for all 2024 graduates and their guests. Graduating students will receive information about registration and guests’ tickets via email. The event will also be livestreamed.

Visit the Commencement website for the full Commencement weekend schedule, information about planning your visit, answers to frequently asked questions and more.

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