Congratulations, Class of 2022!
As momentous as the Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s 120th commencement was for the graduates, their families, and the participating faculty, it was also wonderfully normal.
Because of pandemic precautions, the May 6 ceremony, held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, in Center City, was the first to include an audience since 2019. It was also livestreamed on the school’s YouTube channel.
The Class of 2022, whose studies were temporarily upended by the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, represents nearly two dozen different states and countries and more than 100 different undergraduate colleges and universities.
“In short, the Class of 2022 embodies the rich diversity and the broad talent and experience that adds substance to our school and that helps to predict their missions to do good in the world will be achieved,” said Maryellen E. Gusic, MD, Senior Associate Dean of Education and the commencement’s master of ceremonies.
Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, Interim Dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine praised the graduates’ fortitude in the face of so many historic events during their time at the school. These included the pandemic, a collective social reckoning, and a high stakes presidential election.
“When the blood of the world is boiling, it is not easy to keep your eye on the ball. But you did it, Class of 2022,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Your commitment to your education, each other, and our community never wavered.
“Yes, the world extended a hand and called your name, and you engaged. As you should. Our world so needs you,” she continued. “But you also stayed the course in school. You met, often exceeded, the demanding requirements of your degree programs. It proves your ability to put competing demands in perspective and act on all you want and need to do. And that is everything.”
At the same time, Dr. Goldberg also warned the graduates not to be so focused on the clinical nuances of their practice that they lose sight of the human being before them.
“You learned that doctoring requires knowledge, proper diagnosis, skilled technique, good treatment planning, access to technology – all these things,” she said. “But none of this is the ‘beating heart of medicine.’ That is your heart, your soul, your hands.”
The sentiment was echoed by the commencement’s keynote speaker, Admiral Rachel L. Levine, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
“Your time here has given you knowledge, and the application of that knowledge will come with the essential skills that you need,” Dr. Levine said. “But you’ve learned other lessons here, as well. You have learned the need for compassion and sensitivity, for empathy and concern not just for your patients, but also for your family and friends, your colleagues, and yourself. You have learned patience, the need for curiosity and flexibility, to be calm and confident, the ability to innovate, and to expect the unexpected.”
Dr. Levine reflected on her own career, which includes appointments as Pennsylvania’s Physician General and Secretary of Health. Although, arguably the most significant moment of her career – and her life – occurred before she entered public office. Eleven years ago, as Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Levine began identifying as a woman. In the years since, she’s become one of the country’s most prominent advocates for LGBTQ equity.
“I feel very strongly about diversity in all of its myriad and wonderful aspects,” she told the graduates. “The beautiful tapestry of diversity we have in our nation should be welcomed and celebrated for the way that it strengthens and enhances any organization.”
Following Admiral Levine, the students head from Melanie A. Cosby, PhD, Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Assistant Professor in the Center for Urban Bioethics, The MD Class of 2022 yearbook dedicatee.
“When I first arrived in 2014, I felt invisible. I am Black. I am female. I am not a physician,” Dr. Cosby said. “I had to find my way, give myself permission to unapologetically bring my full authentic self to work, not for personal gain, but to speak for the unheard. Which is not just my job, it’s my passion, it’s my life.
“To name, explain, make visible to those who do not see the ways the dominant culture has excluded, oppressed, and marginalized certain groups and individuals, that is what I am here for,” she continued. “I endeavor to be a positive catalyst for change. Perhaps that is how many of you have experienced me. At least I hope so. But change means shaking tables, creating discomfort. By no means is this easy.”
On the cusp of the next phase of their medical education and training and, in turn, growing influence, Dr. Cosby challenged the graduates: “You will occupy stations of power and purpose in life. Will you leverage them to be a catalyst for change?”
Every class matures during its education. Given the rigors of medical school, it’s inevitable. But because it’s weathered so much beyond the curricula, the Class of 2022 appears to be uniquely poised to act on all the heartfelt advice it received at commencement.
“We, and countless providers around us, faced hard decisions about seeing our families, mental health versus physical health, impossible choices we never thought we’d have to make, all while isolating from the friendships we’d spent two years fostering,” Class President Gena Topper, MD, said. “But it gave us more compassion, for ourselves and for one another. We knew we weren’t alone in being alone, wrestling with these tough choices.
“When clinical rotations began, it was as if we spent no time apart at all. It was clear deep empathy had grown from this collective trauma,” she continued. “When the world falls apart, we are blessed with the ability to rebuild better together.”
In July, the MD program graduates will begin residency training in multiple medical and surgical specialties, while the master of arts, master of science, and doctoral science graduates continue their training or begin working in positions across a wide range of concerns in industry, nonprofit work, and academia – all putting their Temple training to productive scientific and humane use in the world.