Celebrating the Class of 2021: Leaders during the pandemic

May 17, 2021  //  FOUND IN: News,

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The U-M medical student education experience uniquely prepares graduates to make an impact in health care. The COVID-19 pandemic — which greatly affected their final two years of medical school — also provided the Class of 2021 with unforeseen opportunities to show others that they are ready to lead and change medicine.

Indeed, many of this year’s graduating class volunteered through the M-Response Corps, created new learning experiences and led other important initiatives to help in any way they could. They did not watch and observe as the world changed; instead, they stood up, engaged and helped their community respond.

On Friday, after almost a year-and-a-half of perseverance, 169 doctors-to-be gathered with loved ones around their mobile phones, monitors, laptops and screens to participate in a virtual U-M Medical School commencement ceremony and celebrated entry into their chosen profession.

The online ceremony featured remarks from the honored speaker, Joneigh S. Khaldun, M.D., M.P.H., a U-M alumna, chief medical executive for the State of Michigan, and chief deputy director for health in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; student speaker Steven Goldenthal, who was selected by his peers to speak for the graduating class; and Gifty Kwakye, M.D., a faculty member chosen by the class as the Senior Award recipient.

“You embody what medicine and what this great university is all about: service, community, caring and stepping up when things get tough,” Khaldun said. “Because being a doctor is not just a job, it is a calling, it is a way of life.”

Khaldun continued by discussing all the efforts the med students made during the pandemic.

“You worked to make sure health care workers had enough PPE, trained to be respiratory therapist extenders, brought food to the elderly and even volunteered to comfort patients so they did not have to die alone.”

In addition to Khaldun’s speech, U-M and medical school leadership delivered remarks and guided graduates through many of the traditional segments of the ceremony, including an official reading of each student’s name and recitation of the Hippocratic Oath.

In case you weren’t able to stream the ceremony, you can still celebrate through the Commencement 2021 website at commencement.medicine.umich.edu. There, graduates, families, friends, faculty and staff can post their messages of thanks, congratulations and well wishes. Community members can also share messages on their Twitter and public Instagram accounts by using the hashtag #GoBlueMD.

“Our graduating students have reminded us of just how remarkable they are in these challenging times,” said Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs at U-M and dean of the U-M Medical School. “Through observing their many demonstrations of leadership, I am confident that the future of health care is in very good hands. Congratulations to the Class of 2021.”

Commencement day capped a two-week celebration of the Class of 2021, which began May 3 with a daily sharing of the Graduation Awards recipients on the medical school’s social media channels, as well as its website.

“As we reflect on the journey of this graduating class, we need to recognize how this pandemic disrupted the most formative phase of their education; the time when students typically make choices to understand what kind of physician they want to be,” said Rajesh S. Mangrulkar, M.D., associate dean for medical student education and the Marguerite S. Roll Professor of Medical Education. “Through it all, this class went through this time with grace and kindness, and they also doubled-down on their commitment to serve our patients and communities. We are so proud of the Class of 2021.”

There are many other notable accomplishments for this year’s senior medical students:

  • Thirty-three percent of the students will stay in the state of Michigan for their next level of training, which includes 22% who plan to continue their education at Michigan Medicine. The rest will embark on training in 30 other states. A resounding 98.2% of U-M Medical School students matched for their residency, which exceeded the national average of 92.8% percent.
  • Twenty-seven students will graduate with both a medical degree from U-M and an advanced degree in another field from a top-ranked graduate program at U-M, Stanford, Columbia and elsewhere. These degrees include Ph.D.’s as part of U-M’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), or master’s degrees in public health, clinical research or business. Three students have also completed both a medical degree and a residency program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
  • While COVID-19 has elicited feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, it also inspired a groundswell of humanitarianism. When the pandemic impacted their world, U-M’s medical students immediately wanted to make a difference — and they have. Members of the quickly formed M-Response Corps worked tirelessly to meet an endless stream of pandemic-related needs since last March, involving more than 500 medical students.
  • U-M Medical School offers students the chance to choose a “Path of Excellence” (PoE) a scholarly concentration where they can learn about important fields that improve health such as bioethics, health policy, the humanities, scientific research or global medicine, nurturing their passion, interests and their projects from the moment they enter medical school. Approximately 82% of 2021 grads completed a PoE.
  • Beginning with this cohort of graduating students, U-M Medical School now requires students to complete a Capstone for Impact (CFI) project, as they build experience in learning how to lead change in medicine. Eighty-two percent of the graduating students completed a CFI project this year. Projects ranged from developing a novel supplemental oxygen therapy control system, to training and deploying U-M medical students as respiratory therapist extenders during COVID-19, and building an equitable surgical training pipeline.

For more information on commencement or to watch the ceremony, visit: commencement.medicine.umich.edu.

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