University of South Florida

MCOM graduates 173 new doctors in socially distant ceremony

The medical students of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2021 officially became doctors in a socially distant ceremony at the Mahaffey Theatre, St. Petersburg, Fla., May 7.

Graduation may have looked a little different this year.  But the end of the four-year medical school journey was just as gratifying for the Class of 2021 USF Health Morsani College of Medicine medical students.  As the world continues to recover from a pandemic, 173 of the country’s newest doctors graduated in a socially distanced ceremony at the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg, Fla. May 7.

The ceremony wasn’t filled with the typical pomp and circumstance and VIPS that have become synonymous with MCOM ceremonies.  And friends, families and loved ones watched the ceremony outside of the theater or via live stream through MCOM and USF Health social media channels, rather than fill theater seats for in-person views .  COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way of the world and emphasized the more vital role innovative doctors will play in the effort to heal the world.

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health senior vice president and MCOM dean.

“COVID-19 has underscored that in the 21st century, health is global not local; dynamic not static; and that medical knowledge is accelerating at an unimaginable rate. Health care will never be the same,” said USF Health senior vice president and MCOM dean, Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, during his remarks to the class. “While I do not want to dwell on the challenges presented by COVID-19, I do want to recognize your remarkable determination in overcoming those challenges. Your resilience has paid off, and I speak for all of USF Health when I say that we could not be prouder of you.”

Jasmina Ehab, MD, selected by her fellow class of 2021 graduates to deliver remarks, also acknowledged the resilience and compassion of her classmates.  She recalled when Hurricane Irma shut down the state of Florida when they were only a couple of months into their first year of medial school.  It was through those trying times the class of 2021 grew stronger together.

Jasmina Ehab, MD, was chosen by her fellow graduates to deliver a speech to her fellow classmates.

“Although we didn’t know each other well, all of us opened our homes to one another. We shared our food; we shared our resources. Many of us stayed with each other’s families in other states. Not only did we exhibit this sense of family early on, but this experience was the landscape for our relationships, moving forward. We became each other’s keepers, we relied on one another and from that point on we knew that we were always going to be there to help each other,” she said.  “I have never been prouder of us as a class than when we held each other, supported one another and cried with each other. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. That’s what makes us unique, that’s why we have this unbreakable bond, this is what makes us family.”

Steven Currall, PhD, University of South Florida System President.

The most important, and most welcomed remarks came from University of South Florida System President, Steven Currall, PhD. His words were few, but impactful ending with “I confer upon each of you the doctor of medicine degree,” officially marking the transition from student to doctor.

The impact of graduating from medical school in the wake of uncertain and trying circumstances was not lost on the class.  One graduate described his fellow graduates and their journey with one word: resilient.   The Class of 2021 will use resilience as they move on to residency this summer.

More images from the ceremony:

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health senior Vice President and MCOM dean, presented the 2021 Dean’s Award to recently retired Tom Whalen, MD. Dr. Whalen served as executive Vice President and chief medical officer at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Penn. He has played an instrumental role in strengthening the ties between USF Health and LVHN.


Mathia Nittmann, MD, Class of 2021 recipient of the Donn L. Smith Award.

Timothy Koo, MD, Class of 2021 recipient of the Morsani College of Medicine Dean’s Award.


Karim Hanna, MD, chosen by the class to deliver the charge to the class. Dr. Hannah is also a Class of 2014 MCOM alum.

Pre-ceremony celebration:




Post-ceremony excitement:




Photos and story by Fredrick J. Coleman.  Video by Allison Long. 

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