World-Renowned Vaccine Advocate Dr. Paul Offit Selected for USciences Honorary Degree at 2017 Commencement

By Jenna Pizzi

Dr. Paul OffitUSciences will celebrate the class of 2017 at its 196th commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, and bestow an honorary doctor of science degree on world-renowned vaccine advocate Paul Offit, MD. In addition, USciences welcomes keynote speaker Christopher Lee MOT’17 to the 6th bachelor’s degree conferment ceremony on Friday, May 19, 2017, to tell his inspirational tale of recovery. 

Dr. Offit, who will be counted among the approximately 540 commencement graduates that day, is professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He also serves as the Maurice R. Hillman Professor of Vaccinology and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania  

A leader in the fields of immunology and vaccine development, Dr. Offit is a recipient of many awards including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School, the Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development from the Infectious Disease Society of America, and a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Offit has published more than 160 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety. He is also the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC; for this achievement Dr. Offit received the Luigi Mastroianni and William Osler Awards from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Charles Mérieux Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; and was honored by Bill and Melinda Gates during the launch of their Foundation’s Living Proof Project for global health.

Dr. Offit was a member of the advisory committee on immunization practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation and the Foundation for Vaccine Research.

At the conferment ceremony, some 175 students in the doctor of occupational therapy, doctor of physical therapy, masters of physician assistant studies, and doctor of pharmacy programs who entered the University as a first-year student in 2013, or who transferred into those programs before earning a bachelor’s degree, are eligible to receive a bachelor’s degree as they continue their matriculation toward their professional degree.

Conferment students will hear an inspirational story of recovery. Mr. Lee, who will walk in May’s commencement ceremony but officially completed his master of occupational therapy degree  this past fall, will tell his story of determination to beat the odds at the bachelor’s degree conferment ceremony.

In 2011, while enrolled as an honor roll student at USciences, Mr. Lee was critically injured in a crash on I-95 in Pennsylvania when his car hydroplaned off the road and collided with a tree. Suffering hemorrhaging in the brain and soft tissue damage around the spinal cord, Mr. Lee had trouble regaining movement of his arms and legs, and had to learn to walk again.

After a year of intensive physical therapy and another year of cognitive rehabilitation, he was able to regain strength and begin taking classes again. He was recognized at the occupational therapy pinning program in spring 2016 and completed his degree in January.

Mr. Lee, of Newtown, Pa., said he was determined to complete his degree at USciences so that he can go on to help others get stronger like the professionals that helped him during his recovery. Following his rehabilitation Mr. Lee began working as a personal trainer and is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and also has a certification as a personal trainer from the American College of Sports Medicine. He currently works as a personal trainer at Drexel University Recreation Center.

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