Alongside the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Lance Armstrong and Miley Cyrus, who have earned themselves a spot on TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2008, is this year’s Fairfield University commencement speaker.

Dr. Peter Pronovost ’87, is currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and has just been named this year’s commencement speaker.

Pronovost developed a health care safety ‘checklist’ that is saving countless lives around the country, which brought him such attention and honor to be added to TIME’s Most Influential People of 2008 list in the Scientists and Thinkers category. Pronovost was also recently selected as one of the 25 MacArthur Fellows, making him the only Fairfield alumni to ever receive this honor.

In the first 18 months that Michigan hospitals began to implement Pronovost’s ‘checklist,’ the number of hospital-acquired infections at typical Intensive Care Units (ICU) in Michigan dropped from 2.7 percent to zero, saving more than 1,500 lives, according to TIME.

When he was a student at Fairfield, Pronovost always knew he wanted to be a doctor.

‘I wanted to get into a top medical program and do something that would make a difference in the world,’ said Pronovost in an exclusive interview with The Mirror. ‘I wanted to grow intellectually, but also spiritually, socially and emotionally.’

Pronovost is quick to attribute the impact of his Fairfield education had on his life.

‘From the Jesuits, I learned to think creatively, integrate concepts into a strategy and then have the discipline to focus and execute,’ said Pronovost. ‘I think my commitment to impact health care globally comes from my family and Jesuit education.’

Pronovost is honored to be asked to give this year’s commencement address.

‘It is hard to explain what it feels like to be invited to give the commencement speech to the school your father, your brothers and you graduated from. I’m delighted, nervous, but delighted,’ he said.

In the time between now and when he will give his commencement address in May, Pronovost encourages seniors to ‘seek balance in life.’

‘It is not easy to keep a balance, but some practical tools help. So many pressures today drive us to focus solely on monetary success. Though they provide stuff, they do not lead to happiness,’ he said.

He encourages students to focus on their relationships and highlights the importance they have on one’s life.

‘Your relationship with God, with your self, with your family and with others: This is where we are able to know ourselves and make the world better.’

Currently, Pronovost is practicing medicine in ICUs and partnering with world health organizations to implement their safety programs across the globe and throughout the U.S.

On receiving his latest honor of a spot on TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2008, Pronovost says he was humbled.

‘I was awe struck going to meet all these high profile people; yet it was interesting, people came up to me and said you’re the one who saves lives. I was really honored.’

This May, Fairfield University will have not one, but two, commencement ceremonies, one after another, for the first time.

The morning ceremony will be for graduating seniors and the afternoon ceremony will be for graduate students.

The afternoon speaker will be Mathy Mezey, Ed.D, R.N., F.A.A.N., professor and director of The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing in the New York University College of Nursing. Her career had been aimed at improving health care for older adults.

‘We are proud to have such distinguished leaders from the field of health care to encourage and inspire our graduates, as they leave Fairfield to begin or continue their own journeys in careers that will impact the lives of others,’ said University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, who gave the commencement speech at last year’s graduation.

‘In the case of Dr. Pronovost, it is someone who walked the same paths and studied in the same classrooms as they have,’ he said.

‘Perhaps one of my most eye-opening experiences was taking Dr. [Rev. Thomas J.] Regan’s Intro to Philosophy. I became so intrigued by Plato and his thoughts. My love of philosophy continues today,’ said Pronovost.

Some students feel Pronovost exemplifies a model Fairfield graduate.

‘I think choosing Dr. Ponovost is definitely a step in the right direction,’ said Jen Clinton ’09. ‘Having such an accomplished graduate of Fairfield University speak is encouraging to those of us who want to do well in our field, and have a positive impact on others’ lives at the same time. He seems like a great role model, and he’s using every element of his Jesuit education to achieve his goals.’

In his speech, Pronovost said he will encourage students to think globally and challenges them to take action and see their dreams become realities.

‘It is great to think big ideas or grand thoughts. It is rare to execute them.’

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