"I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity."
Daniel Savage repeated those words on April 8, standing in front of a computer screen in his parents' home in Webster, NY. The virtual ceremony wasn't exactly how Savage and his fellow medical students had envisaged celebrating their graduation.
But, then, who could have anticipated they would be graduating in the midst of a global pandemic?
The ceremony had special significance for Savage and his mentors. He became the first student to earn dual MD-PhD degrees with a concentration in optics at the University of Rochester. In January, he matched into the University of Rochester's ophthalmology residency for an additional 4 years of specialized training.
"The medical school graduation is such a special thing," Savage says. "I've been to graduation ceremonies for friends in previous years, and it's really a wonderful celebration. I would be lying to say there wasn't a tinge of disappointment that we didn't get to have that full experience, but given the circumstances, this was absolutely the right thing to do. It was still very meaningful and a wonderful celebration."
Certainly, the opening words of the oath he took that day will resonate with anyone who knows Daniel Savage. From the very beginning of his 10-year journey to complete his dual-degree program, Savage has been motivated by one goal, to find better ways to improve vision, especially in underprivileged populations.
He has been unflagging in expressing his appreciation for the unique opportunities the University has provided for him to earn those degrees. "I've been privileged to have had many amazing opportunities in life, but the best ones have always been at the University of Rochester," he notes. He is particularly grateful for the many superb mentors he was worked with, and eager to become a mentor himself. Above all, he regards his education as a privilege that in turn entails an obligation to serve others.
"As a person, Daniel demonstrates a level of maturity in his interactions with people from all walks of life, that belie his age. From an academic point of view, he is simply brilliant," says Krystel Huxlin, the James V. Aquavella, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, who served as one Savage's PhD advisors.
"Equally impressive is his easy, warm nature, his humility, his ceaseless quest for self-improvement and his generosity towards his peers. This rare combination of attributes will make him a natural leader in his field. I feel privileged to have known and worked with him. I simply cannot express enough how impressive Daniel is."
Wayne Knox, professor of optics and Savage's other PhD advisor, concurs.
"Dan has blazed a remarkable trail."