Morsani College of Medicine graduates 128 new physicians [Multimedia]

The audience that filled the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg erupted into a standing ovation, applause, cheers and whistles as the graduates of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine stood to face friends, family, faculty, school leaders and supporters for the first time as physicians.

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The Class of 2015 – the largest in the College’s 41-year history of commencements – boasts 128 graduates, including 16 students from the charter group of our SELECT MD program. The celebration was also the first for Charles J. Lockwood, MD, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and senior vice president for USF Health, who joined USF last summer.

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Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, with some of the MD graduates.

“It is my great honor to welcome faculty, staff and distinguished visitors, including parent, family members and friends of our new doctors, who are the support system for this amazing class,” Dr. Lockwood said. “Today we celebrate two truly great traditions in the profession of medicine – the hooding of our new physicians and the taking of the Hippocratic oath, ceremonies with deep significance and tradition that are as moving today as when I received my own doctoral hood and took the Hippocratic Oath 34 years ago. This commencement marks an end and a beginning as each of you commits yourself to the lifetime pursuing the art and science of healing.”

Then words of kindness and wisdom, threaded with poignant humor came forth as Douglas Barrett, MD, a graduate of the USF College of Medicine charter class, presented the keynote address.

“Some 15,833 days have passed since my fellow charter classmates, your marshals, and I sat in those chairs, so it’s a little surreal to be talking to you today,” Dr. Barrett said before taking a lighthearted turn in his advice. “If you want to get them back in one piece, don’t hold your Oreos under the milk until the bubbles stop. Always drink upstream from a Buffalo heard. And never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”

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Dr. Douglas Barrett, a graduate of the USF College of Medicine Charter Class.

But then turning right back to sincere guidance.

“Soon you’re going to walk– maybe even dance – across the stage, get hooded, shake the hands of people you won’t remember in some 15,800 days, and finally you’ll get your diplomas. You certainly won’t look any different and you probably won’t act any different. But I’m hoping you will be different. I’m hoping you will have crossed the Rubicon. Going past the point of no return, disrupting the status quo, inciting insurrection, marching irrevocably into the uncertain and insecure future. After today, you can no longer say to a patient, ‘Oh, I’m just a medical student. I’ll have to ask the real doctor.’ You are the real doctor. You’ve crossed the Rubicon.”

“And I’m hoping you feel a really good measure of the insecurity and uncertainty that goes with crossing the Rubicon. Some degree of uncertainty is a necessary and positive characteristic of a really good physician. In contrast, overconfidence and contentment with the status quo are our most dangerous and malignant tendencies.”

Dr. Barrett offered three ideas for becoming part of the insurrection.

“First, don’t contract destination disease, second, never step in the same hole twice, and third, swear off shortcuts.”

In closing, he reminded the graduates to “not allow yourself to get discouraged by all the pundits. Cynics are dead wrong – you have made the right choice and you must not let them highjack your optimism. Medicine is still the most gratifying of the caring professions.”

COPH sound-icon-png Listen to Dr. Douglas Barrett’s full speech.

Will Weatherford accepted this year’s Dean’s Award. Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a long-time supporter of USF, Weatherford thanked USF.

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Will Weatherford accepts the Dean’s Award in recognition of his inspired leadership in support of the USF Health Heart Institute.

“Extremely humbling to receive this award,” Weatherford said. “I was listening to Dr. Barrett’s earlier words and thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, whose health will be affected by these graduates who are going to be walking across this aisle today. To be a part of that, to witness it, to be a champion of what I believe to be the greatest university in the State of Florida, that is changing lives and changing this community every single day. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it and for this wonderful award.”

Then, in unison, the students recited the Oath of Hippocrates and one by one walked to center stage to receive their hoods and diplomas.

In the tradition of the College, a student is chosen among classmates for providing the Farewell Speech and this year that student was Christoper DeClue. Thanking basic science and clinical faculty and the many support staff who help medical students and taking the audience through the students’ past four years, DeClue highlighted the challenges and the good times while doing clinical rotations in third year and touching on numerous meaningful projects and activities. He then listed nearly every student in the class, assigning strong attributes to each, like ethics, determination, humility, humor and leadership. Then came his challenge.

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Dr. Chris DeClue gives the Farewell to the Class.

“One, act with humility and never let your ego interfere with your ability to ask for help,” DeClue said. “Two, lead by example. Three, be your best self and always bring your ‘A’ game. And four, commit yourself to learning, stay connected and never stop learning.”

The final step was the Charge to the Class, this year by Robert Ledford, MD. He, too, was chosen by the class to provide culminating words of encouragement and promise for what was to come for this group of 128.

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Dr. Robert Ledford gives the Charge to the Class.

“Then two weeks ago, my third child was born. As I sat in the hospital holding her quietly in the night, I could hear the bustling about of the nursing and medical staff outside her room. It dawned on me that you all will take care of my children, and myself. My ephiphany was that my charge to you should be in equal measure as a parent, a patient and as a colleague. And so I charge you as follows. Be patient. Be brave. Be compassionate. Be enthusiastic. Be curious. Be an advocate. Question everything, with humility but with passion. Accept nothing as unchangeable or immutable. Remember your patients as people and not the sum of their illnesses. Never underestimate the magnitude of your impact on the countless lives you will touch. It is our greatest gift.”

And with that, 128 new physicians filed out into the lobby of the Mahaffey and into the arms of family, friends and children.

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USF President Judy Genshaft confers the Doctor of Medicine degree to 128 graduates of the Morsani College of Medicine.

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Dr. Kira Zwygart announces every graduate’s name as they are hooded and receive their diplomas.

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Dr. Javier Cuevas, president of the MCOM faculty, lead the procession and recession bearing the College’s mace.

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Following graduation, Grant Sizemore, Nelsi Mora and Amy Jiang take an oath to serve as each is promoted to Captain.

 Video by Sandra Roa and photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications