Graduating medical students become physicians during memorable commencement ceremony
Persistence and determination paid off for the Class of 2017 at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
After four years of hard work and rigor, the senior graduating medical students became doctors — accepting their academic hoods and diplomas in front of friends, family, USF leaders and guests during the commencement ceremony on April 20 in the Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for Performing Arts.
“This is your day, your stage and a testament of your tireless determination over the past four years,” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, during the ceremony. “I know how hard you all have worked to get here — studying into the wee hours, worrying about exams, learning how to navigate hospital labyrinths, master presentations and how to keep up with medical knowledge that doubles every 73 days.”
The Class of 2017, which included 164 graduates, received their doctor of medicine degrees – marking the beginning of their lifelong journey in pursuing the art and science of healing.
“Today you join a community of health care professionals that spans every continent of the world; a community that contributes to the advancement of our society through a commitment to making life better,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft.
During the ceremony, Dr. Genshaft presented a USF Honorary Degree to Victor J. Dzau, MD, president of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Dzau, who was the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony, received the distinguished USF degree for his extraordinary leadership in academic medicine, translational research, health care innovation, national health policy and global health.
Dr. Dzau, chancellor emeritus and the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University and former president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, is an internationally renowned physician scientist and pioneer of gene therapy for vascular disease. His groundbreaking work has focused on the molecular and genetic mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and the development of gene and stem-based therapies to regenerate tissue damage from heart attack and heart disease.
After receiving the Honorary Degree, Dr. Dzau delivered an inspirational commencement address –bringing graduates and attendees to their feet.
“You are among the most valuable contributions that USF will make to our society,” Dr. Dzau said. “You are the future leaders we need right now to help tackle big challenges. We need you to do the research and to make those great leaps forward. We need you to provide your patients with the best available evidence-based care. And now, more than ever, we need you to share that evidence – and yes, to defend it — beyond the walls of the clinic or the laboratory. We need you to make sure that research and medical advances are benefitting not just some of us, but all of us.”
John A. Brabson, Jr., the chairman of the Tampa General Hospital Board of Directors, was also honored with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Dean’s Award. Brabson received the award for his tireless work to strengthen the relationship of USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and TGH, USF Health’s primary teaching hospital. The long-time partnership helps advance the reputation of both institutions.
Then, the students recited the Oath of Hippocrates, led by Bryan Bognar, MD, vice dean of the Office of Educational Affairs for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Following the Oath of Hippocrates, Dr. Genshaft conferred the Doctor of Medicine degree to the students, and as each name was recited by Kira Zwygart, MD, professor and associate dean for MCOM Student Affairs, students walked to center stage to receive their academic hoods and diplomas.
As part of a long college tradition, graduate Robert S. Ackerman, MD, was selected to provide the Farewell from the Class. Dr. Ackerman told his fellow graduates that becoming a doctor is a privilege and an honor of a lifetime.
“Today is awesome. Really, really awesome,” said Dr. Ackerman. “No other day in our lifetimes will rival the emotions of today. Becoming a doctor is a special privilege we can only dream of and for it to become a reality today is purely superb. For us, this is the culmination of four years of studying PowerPoints, reading EKGs, retracting incisions, answering question banks, delivering babies. While today the medical student tag drops off and the white coat lengthens a few inches, it’s not without appreciation of the time and effort that went into it.”
Dr. Ackerman also told his fellow graduates and attendees that medical school is unlike any other experience. He said, he and his classmates shared a special bond unlike any other as they went through their journey of becoming doctors.
“Remember what we shared together,” Dr. Ackerman said. “This is the closest group of classmates this school has seen, and our friendships will only grow stronger with time. Appreciate the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, appreciate USF, and come back to visit the roots you laid in Tampa. We’re leaving today, but we’re never gone.”
Before the 2017 MCOM Commencement came to an end, Steven C. Specter, PhD, associate dean for Alumni Relations and director of MD Career Advising, presented the Charge to the Graduates. Dr. Specter told students to read, reflect, treat every person with respect, show compassion and always remember to stay connected to USF.
“Doctors, congratulations. You have reached the goal, the MD degree you set out to achieve when you entered medical school,” said Dr. Specter. “After 38 years, I could not be more strongly connected to USF and this prestigious USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. I bought into the philosophy that USF means ‘you stay forever.’ My wish for you is that you come to love this institution, because it set you on a course that results in your success. Give back what you can, when you can, for as it has been stated, ‘When you help others you can’t help helping yourself.’”
Story by Vjollca Hysenlika, and photos by Eric Younghans and Frederick Coleman| USF Health Communications and Marketing