College of Medicine Commencement 2015
Pride, Joy and Eyes on the Future
On a day of celebration and reflection, several speakers focused on a traditional graduation subject – the future. “It is my sincere hope that you will forever apply what you have experienced as students at the College of Medicine: passion in your pursuits, compassion for, and dedicated service to, your patients, and excellence in every aspect of your lives,” said Dimitri Azar, MD, MBA, Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at the 133rd Commencement Ceremony in Chicago.
The Class of 2015 includes a total of 306 Doctor of Medicine graduates: 179 in Chicago, 55 in Peoria, 45 in Rockford and 27 in Urbana-Champaign in addition to 23 Doctor of Philosophy and 43 Master Degree candidates. Convocations for the Peoria, Rockford and Urbana-Champaign College of Medicine campuses celebrated the achievements of the students graduating from each site. The University of Illinois is among the largest medical schools graduating classes in the United States.
The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford hosted its first combined Convocation for the College of Medicine and Masters of Science in Medical Biotechnology (MBT) Class of 2015. “The Masters of Science in Biotechnology Program’s Class of 2015 includes 16 students – seven of whom already have job offers and one who is heading to medical school,” said Dean Alex Stagnaro-Green. “There are 45 graduating students in the College of Medicine at Rockford’s Class of 2015. These graduates will be entering 13 different specialties across 18 states.”
Diverse student interests were reflected in their pursuit of a myriad of different residencies across the U.S. and focus in many different specialties from internal medicine or dermatology, a rural surgery program or Navy residency program.
While graduating students expressed elation and, at times, relief, one of the prevailing sentiments of the day was gratitude. Many students confirmed that the climate for learning at the College of Medicine was highly supportive. While most acknowledged the rigors of medical school, students routinely shared the belief that they were surrounded by peers and staff at the COM who fostered a caring and stimulating learning environment.
“There is so much camaraderie here,” said Denise Valero, who will specialize in internal medicine for her residency at Rush University Medical Center. “There’s great teamwork, and that encourages everyone to be the best that they can be.”
“People here encourage you, and understand that you can struggle but that you can also succeed,” said Kristopher Musgraves, who will specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation and will be a resident in internal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Oak Lawn and, later, at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton.
2015 Class President, Peter Lazzari spoke to the class moments after all students received their degrees. In an emotional speech, he told family and friends that “you have been there for us – you never, never gave up on us. I know that I could not have done it without you.” Lazzari worked in the real estate field before coming to the College of Medicine. He is specializing in emergency medicine, and will complete his residency at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago.
Meanwhile, James Frencher, who completed the combined MD/PhD program, reflected that the College of Medicine was “definitely a big environment where you could get a diverse experience and work with a variety of populations. I worked at County Hospital, a veteran’s hospital and a community hospital.” Frencher is specializing in radiology and will pursue his residency at the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and, later at the University of California in San Francisco.
In the audience, family members and friends shared an afternoon that was triumphant. “It’s amazing to realize how much time has passed,” said Dr. James Fiske, whose daughter Lauren graduated with a specialty in psychiatry and will be resident at San Mateo Behavioral Health and Recovery Services in San Mateo, California. “But mostly there are feelings of pride and joy.”
College of Medicine Special Hooding Ceremony: Saying Thanks on a Special Day
At the College of Medicine Special Hooding Ceremony in Chicago 47 graduating students received their Doctor of Medicine hoods from a mentor, family member or friend – or more than one – who has had a positive impact on their lives and careers.
Dr. Dimitri Azar, Executive Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, told students that “you have worked hard to earn your degrees – and you did it with the support of your family, friends and faculty members. Today’s ceremony is rich in tradition, dating back to medieval times. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share your achievements with those individuals who supported and guided you during your medical school journey.”
Jacqueline Wulu, who will pursue her residency in Otolaryngology at Boston University, was hooded by her father, John, a PhD who grew up in Liberia and is a statistician for the Department of Homeland Security. She said that “The College of Medicine gives you early exposure to patients and it’s also a very collaborative environment for students.” She cited many positive experiences, including her participation in the Urban Medicine Program, through which she learned about health care disparities, diversity, and policy and advocacy issues related to health care.
Most of all, she acknowledged the importance of her parents in her quest to be a doctor. “My parents have always been very supportive and very proud of me,” she said. “I’m the first physician in my family.”
Strong support for students was an unmistakable theme that echoed throughout the ceremony. Alex Cano, a mother of two who was born in Mexico and raised in Humboldt Park, spoke about the support of four doctors who “hooded” her at the ceremony, her mother, two children, a high school science teacher, peers, advisors and “phenomenal friends.” Cano will do her residency in emergency medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at the UI Hospital.