Congratulations, Class of 2021!
The Lewis Katz School of Medicine Class of 2021 celebrated its graduation — the School’s 119th commencement — under partly sunny skies on May 7 at the Temple Sports Complex, an outdoor athletic field on the University’s main campus, with the graduates sitting six feet apart from one another, and with presiding faculty and administrators occupying a stage beneath a tent at the side of the field. Everyone wore a mask. The graduates’ families and friends watched a livestream of the ceremony on the School’s YouTube channel. More than a thousand viewers logged into the broadcast. Altogether over 200 students were awarded MD, MA, MS, and/or PhD degrees, some in combination.
Gerald H.Sterling, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Education, Accreditation and Continuous Quality Improvement, who served as the Master of Ceremony, opened with a welcoming reflection. Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, Interim Dean, and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Temple University Health System, praised the graduates for stepping up in so many ways to address the COVID-19 pandemic – and acknowledged their courage and bravery in advancing a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity at the School in the wake of last summer’s social unrest.
“Students are the soul of the school, its conscience,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Students know and see and speak up about things that we might be blind to. Thank you. We need this. We were your faculty, but you’ve been every bit as much our teachers.”
“You are graduating with everything it takes to succeed in your profession and in life: Compassion and commitment. Professionalism and passion. Fortitude and flexibility. The capacity for self-reflection and self-direction. The ability to adapt to change and to lead change. We are so very proud of you,” she said.
The late Katz School dean John M. Daly, MD, FACS, who died suddenly in March, frequently remarked about how much he learned from the Class of 2021, Dr. Goldberg said. In honor and in memory of Dr. Daly, a bouquet of red roses was placed next to the empty seat that would have been his on stage. And later in the ceremony, TachyChordia, the School’s student a capella group, sang “Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)” in his honor. The group also performed “Seasons of Love.”
The keynote address was delivered by David S. Wilkes, MD, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and a Katz School alumnus (Class of 1982). Dr. Wilkes commended the Class of 2021 for its resiliency during what he described as “some of the most challenging times in medicine and history.”
With patient relationships forming the foundation of everything a physician does, Dr. Wilkes encouraged the graduates to keep three basic acts at the core of their practice: see and be seen, listen, and touch. Look your patients in the eye, he said, and “look at them through the eye of compassion.” Listen not only to what they’re describing but also to what they’re not saying. Finally, he said, “Human touch is the most effective way we communicate. Basic gestures provide a huge amount of reassurance. They reinforce to patients that they have value.”
Next, the MD Class of 2021 dedicated its yearbook, The Skull, to a professor especially meaningful to their experience at Temple. Yearbook co-editors Samta Amin, MD, MA, and Maria Saraf, MD, announced that honor had been bestowed upon Karen Lin, MD, MPH, FACP, DABMA, DABIHM, the Abraham Roth Chair of Preventative Medicine and Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Medicine.
In an uplifting acceptance speech, Dr. Lin told the graduates that they’ve already been trained to ask their patients the “right questions.” Now, as they advance in their training, they also need to learn to pose the right questions to themselves.
“Make sure that you foster deep connections with people,” Dr. Lin said. “Advocate for your patients, your communities, and yourselves. And ask, ‘Are you doing all this with care and compassion for yourself?’”
Following Dr. Lin’s remarks, Class of 2021 Co-President Atilio Atencio, MD ’ 21, and Student Government Association President Bryan Kim, MD ’21, addressed their fellow graduates and the audience at home -- encouraging all to keep working for health equity and racial and social justice as the new graduates disperse throughout the country to begin the next phase of their education or to accept jobs in their new careers.
“We raised our voices against injustice. And we raised our voices to tackle biases and inequities. We’re armed with knowledge, empathy, and determination,” Dr. Kim said.
Finally – the highlight of the day came for the graduating class, the conferring of degrees -- with Temple University president Richard Englert and Dean Goldberg presiding. Scott Shore, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate and Special Programs, announced the names of all students who earned the MA, MS, and PhD degrees. Dr. Sterling, Kathleen Reeves, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Douglas Reifler, MD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Medical Humanities, read the names of students who earned the MD, MD/MA, and MD/PhD degrees.
Then Alisa Peet, MD, Associate Dean of Clinical Curriculum and Academic Affiliates, and Class of 2021 Co-President, John Pisan, MD ’21, read the Hippocratic Oath.
Fredric Squires, MD ’91, President of the Katz School Alumni Association, welcomed the new graduates to the ranks of the School’s nationwide community of alumni, ending the ceremony.
It was an emotional event – in an emotional time.