The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine graduated 41 students at its fifth commencement on May 5, the last one that Dean Cynda Johnson will preside over before retiring later this year.

“From today forward, you have a responsibility to be a physician thought leader,” Johnson told the graduates. “The country needs you; I need you. Physician thought leadership needs to be in your DNA. Being a physician thought leader is not a part-time responsibility. It is how you see the world, every day, all the time.”

Johnson reminded the graduates of some of the school’s most noteworthy accomplishments in its eight-year history, including every class exceeding the national mean medical board scores, a growing national and international reputation for medical student researchers, and a 100 percent match rate for all five graduating classes.

Johnson came to Roanoke in 2008 to build the school from the ground up.

“To be the founding dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine was for me the pinnacle of my career,” she said. “To work with leadership of Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech, and now to deliver our school, fully formed, yet with boundless opportunities, as the ninth college, to the university.”

The school will become the ninth college of Virginia Tech July 1.

The ceremony also featured students Chris Li and Adam Tate, who were voted upon by their classmates to speak at graduation.

Addressing his fellow classmates who will soon enter residency programs, Li said, “Yesterday we were medical students, and a few weeks from now we’ll have one following us around. We’re no strangers to challenge. We’ve done this before. We’ll do it again and do it well.”

Tate, who served as class president, praised the class saying, “We have put forth immense effort to improve this institution for those who follow us, and for that pioneering spirit alone, I am proud to be associated with this group of future doctors.”

Rohini Mehta, an alumna from the school’s Class of 2015, who is a psychiatry resident at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, offered the class encouragement as they move on to the next leg of their training.

“You all have knowledge and abilities beyond what you think you might be capable of, and that will become clear when you find yourself in a time of need,” she said.

Jon Sweet, associate professor of internal medicine, was selected by the graduating class to speak on behalf of the school’s faculty.

This summer, the new doctors will begin residency programs in 15 specialties in 16 states and 30 different academic medical programs.