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Congratulations, Class of 2024!

News May 10, 2024

Navigating the rigors of medical school is a daunting prospect for every first-year student. ButtIt was especially challenging for the Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s Class of 2024, which embarked on its first year amid the social unrest of the summer of 2020 and the all-encompassing uncertainty of the early months of the COVID pandemic.  

Classmates waded into a new curriculum together in spirit, but largely isolated by the confines of virtual learning. And yet, they still managed to rally around one another and their new school, opening a dialogue with administrators that would unfold over the next four years and pave the way for an assortment of changes designed to ensure the Katz School of Medicine continues to be increasingly inclusive and equitable. 

“Your commitment to your education, each other, and our community never wavered,” Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, the Marjorie Joy Katz Dean of the Katz School of Medicine, said during the Class of 2024’s commencement, the school’s 122nd. “In fact, you engaged. You stayed the course. You met, often exceeded, the demanding requirements of your degree programs.”  

“As if that wasn’t enough, you participated in advancing our school and advancing equity in our community,” she continued. “And I learned from you the importance of not just listening but hearing, and I am grateful. This was important and you were impressive, but, of course, not surprising to me because, after all, you are ‘Temple-made.’” 

The ceremony, held May 10 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Center City, was also livestreamed. 

Dr. Goldberg encouraged the soon-to-be-graduates to remain closely connected to their compassion as they embarked on the next phase of their medical training. 

“In the fast-paced world of healthcare, it can be all too easy to get lost in the technology we have to diagnose and to treat, forgetting the human being with the illness,” she said. “Yet it is in those moments of vulnerability and suffering that our capacity for compassion is most needed.” 

“As medical professionals, we are scientists and technicians, yes, and we are also entrusted with the sacred duty of alleviating pain and restoring hope,” she continued. “Each of you, as graduates of this incredible medical school, carries within you the power to make a difference in people's lives. Remember that behind every diagnosis is a story waiting to be heard. Behind every condition is a person wanting to be understood. Take the time to listen, to empathize, and to connect on a human level, for it is in those moments of genuine connection that healing truly begins.” 

Dr. Goldberg labeled these acts as the “art of medicine.” She noted the Katz School of Medicine distinguishes itself by teaching it. 

“Medicine advances, our lives change, the world moves on, but one thing remains constant, that deep human core in all of us that needs connection, kindness, and touch,” she said. “You learn doctoring requires knowledge, proper diagnosis, skill, technique, good treatment, planning, access to technology, all these things. But being ‘Temple-made’ is mastering the art and science. The ‘beating heart of medicine’ is your heart, your soul, your hands.” 

The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Paul A. Offit, MD, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Offit outlined a series of missteps during the COVID vaccination campaign that he believes bred mass confusion and mistrust of public health guidance in the United States. 

“I graduated from medical school more than 40 years ago,” he said. “While the rewards for caring for patients were the same for me as they will be for you, the challenges you face today are different. Specifically, that science is losing its place as a source of truth, becoming just another voice in the room. This loss of trust in science has been fueled by a readily available flood of misinformation and disinformation on social media, which dramatically increased during the COVID pandemic.” 

A “handful of communication errors,” as he described them, didn’t help. More concerning, though, is the public’s new heightened awareness of an ancient reality: Scientists learn as they go. It’s more concerning because, Dr. Offit said, there’s not necessarily a straightforward way to alleviate the public’s concern. 

“I think one of your biggest challenges as healthcare professionals is that we're always dealing with some level of uncertainty,” Dr. Offit said. “If I ask you whether you think we'll know more about science and medicine 50 years from now, everyone will say yes. But when it comes to your disease, or, in this case, our pandemic, we want to believe that we know everything we need to know now when that might not be the case.” 

“How can we best explain the fact that the acquisition of scientific knowledge is fluid, knowing that this fluidity will be disconcerting to people?” he continued. “I think we should do our best to explain the scientific reasoning behind our recommendations, understanding that these recommendations are best based on the best available information at the time. By including our patients in the thinking behind our suggestions, we're doing more than saying trust us at a time when trust is at a premium.” 

As is tradition, the graduating MD class dedicated its yearbook, The Skull, to “an individual who has been especially significant in their education and in their lives.” This year’s dedicatee was Hannah Ravreby, MD, Assistant Dean of Academic Coaching and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Katz School of Medicine. 

“We are trained as doctors to appreciate that context matters when trying to understand how to best care for our patients. In the case of your journey from student to doctor, I believe that the context in which you received your medical education also matters and will forever influence you,” Dr. Ravreby said. “As COVID surged and the world was locking down, you were packing your bags and moving to Philadelphia and Bethlehem. Once here, you became trailblazers, as you navigated a major change in every single phase of your training: a new curriculum, virtual learning, step 1 score reports, residency applications, just to name a few. Through it all, you showed us that you are truly special. You are here to learn, here to serve, and here to lead.”  

“You brought fresh ideas and perspectives to everything we do and asked important questions about how and why systems and structures are in place,” she continued. “You worked tirelessly toward your own goals while supporting each other every step of the way. You challenged us all to see a future in medicine that is increasingly inclusive, equitable, and compassionate. You showed us all what it means to have heart with a capital T.” 

Zachary Sokol, MD’24, Class President of the St. Luke’s Regional Campus, shared a parting thought on grit, which is, he said, “what makes a Temple student truly ‘Temple-made.’” 

“We've overcome a great deal to get where we are now,” he said. “Always extend a helping hand to help another person and give that word of encouragement when needed. Never forget where you came from and draw on that whenever you need to go the extra mile to help a patient, a colleague or a friend.” 

Byron Udegbe, MD’24, Class President of the Main Campus, reminded his classmates that as unsettling as their introduction to medical school was, they’re emerging stronger and more resilient for the experience. 

“As we stand on the threshold of our medical careers, I urge my fellow graduates to never lose sight of the values that brought us to this moment,” he said. “Let compassion be your guiding light as you navigate the complexities and murky waters of our US healthcare system. Treat each hospital employee, each medical student, each patient with the dignity, respect, and empathy that they deserve.” 

“And above all,” Udegbe added, “never lose sight of the profound impact even the smallest action can have on the lives of patients and communities.”