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So Long and Farewell to the Class of 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

 David Hanna accepting the Faculty Gold Medal for Outstanding Qualifications for the Practice of Medicine.

The Class of 2017 were the stars as they celebrated their graduation ceremony at the Hippodrome Theater on May 18. Hundreds of family, friends and faculty were there to cheer on the 160 graduates as they officially transitioned from students to doctors. “This celebration is also about you and, indeed, for you,” E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the families “This celebration is also about you and, indeed, for you. For most of our graduating students, the dream of becoming a physician and/or a scientist would not have been realized without you. Your prayers, your encouragement, your support, your love and compassion have contributed to this momentous occasion for these students today.”

Michael Cryor, President of the Cryor Group and Chair of the School of Medicine Board of Visitors, added “To you, our deserving graduates and your exceedingly proud family and friends, I extend heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the Board of Visitors. You, graduates, are a very large part of what gives our work meaning and purpose. Your discipline, your patience, your perseverance – these strengths of yours have brought you to this point today, as you are poised to embark on an exciting new journey. It will be a journey of healing, of discovering, of teaching, and of still learning, which you will combine to make a difference in the world as the next generation of physician-scientists.”

Gina Kolata, MS, a senior writer at The New York Times who reports on science and medicine, was chosen by the class as their keynote speaker. In her speech, she shared stories from patients and doctors whom she has interviewed, as a way of enlightening the new doctors about how patients want their doctors to be and how doctors need to step back every once in awhile and look at things from a patient’s point of view. Ms. Kolata, who has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her science writing, was also presented with the Dean’s Distinguished Gold Medal, which is awarded to individuals who have made high-impact contributions to medicine, science or society, whether in clinical care, education, biomedical research or community service and who have significantly improved the health and well-being of humankind.

The medical students have spent 1,367 days on this journey to becoming a doctor, as David Hanna noted in his speech accepting the Faculty Gold Medal for Outstanding Qualifications for the Practice of Medicine. This medal honors graduates with outstanding scholarly accomplishments and those qualities of humanity and dedication most desirable in a physician. “We all made it together,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “And when I say we, I don’t mean just us students. This day is just as much about all of you as it is about us.”

While excitement was high today, Dean Reece reminded the students that the profession they are entering is not always an easy one. “The oath and commitment you make today to the ethical car of others is life-long. Your unfolding career is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. Faculty speaker Philip Dittmar, MD, FACP, FHM, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine cautioned the graduates about letting the challenges get the best of them during this long run. “There will be amazing days during internship, but there will also be terrible days,” he admitted. “Please know that your shift will end, the sun will rise, your relief will soon arrive, as the clock does not stop. Know that you are not alone. All of you will experience these bad days, as have those who have gone before you. You are not alone. You have back-up and you have friends. Reach out to your peers – they will lift you up, and you must do the same. Help each other through the hard times. Send a quick text or make a quick call. These momentary lifts will help you through, as the clock does not stop.”

The pressure of that clock means sometimes things go wrong. “Although great opportunities do await you, it is not guaranteed that you will always achieve success. Love for your profession will allow you to ride the waves of doubt, the waves of obstruction, and the waves of difficult challenges that will surely present themselves. This is one profession where the difference between love of your work and apathy can, in reality, be the difference between life and death for those whom you serve. So embrace it with passion and thus continue to grow in your service to others.”

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