AUC Celebrates More than 300 Graduates at 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony
New graduates donned their regalia, posed for photos, and recited the Physician’s Oath during AUC’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 16. While the ceremony—conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic—may have looked different from those of years past, graduates upheld traditions from their homes and celebrated the beginning of their medical careers at a time when healthcare is of paramount importance.
Dr. Mark Quirk, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education, presided over the ceremony, which recognized the accomplishments of more than 300 graduates. Throughout the event, he introduced speakers who offered words of encouragement and advice in the context of the unique circumstances surrounding this milestone.
“Your experience at AUC has prepared you for the challenges faced by the world out there waiting for you,” said Dr. Heidi Chumley, AUC Provost. “I know that you will bring to the patients in your lives the stuff that really isn’t tested on the licensing exams. Compassion and empathy. Interest in their wellbeing and in the health of their communities. And, a readiness to do good.”
The Class of 2020 showed their AUC spirit on Commencement Day, displaying yard signs, tagging photos in their regalia with #AUCgrad, and sharing memories for inclusion in AUC's virtual yearbook.
Dr. Angela Branche, a 2007 graduate of AUC and Clinical Director of the NIH Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance’s (CEIRS) New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE), delivered the keynote address. An infectious disease expert, Dr. Branche is actively leading efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic as part of a University of Rochester team that has launched a federally funded study of the immune response to COVID-19.
“There are things that you can do to help yourself succeed: work hard, read a lot, pick a good mentor … ask questions, and engage in your training experiences. But there’s so much more that you can’t plan. And my advice is that at every stage of your training and career, pause and ask yourself if there is more you are capable of achieving, and leave yourself open to new possibilities and directions,” said Dr. Branche.
Special Awards and Recognition
Dr. Julie Taylor, Chief Academic Officer and Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, and Dr. Golden Jackson, Assistant Dean for Community Engagement, recognized six graduates for their commitment to university and community service and impressive academic accomplishments.
The Excellence in Community and University Service Award, which is given to graduates with exemplary records of service to both AUC and their surrounding communities, was presented to:
- Dr. Soubhi Alhayek, Internal Medicine Resident at White River Health System in Arkansas
- Dr. Andrea Batshon, Pediatrics Resident at Ascension St. John Hospital in Michigan
- Dr. Constantine Kanakis, Pathology Resident at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois
- Dr. Iya Owainati, Pediatrics Resident at Authority Health GME in Michigan
The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, which is granted to select graduates who maintained a GPA above 95.41 during medical school, went to:
- Dr. Alejandro Feria, Transitional Resident at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine
- Dr. Hannah Schuett, Pathology Resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California
A Growing Alumni Network
Speakers including class representative Constantine Kanakis, MD ’19, and Dr. Athena Andreadis, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Clinical Medicine, emphasized the human element inherent in medicine.
“You have learned how to think like a doctor. But I hope you don’t forget to think like a human being as well because in the end, the practice of medicine is a deeply human experience,” said Dr. Andreadis, a 2007 AUC alumna, who addressed graduates on behalf of the Alumni Association. “I hope you also feel moved to treat the non-medical issues in the world, identifying yourselves as not only physicians, but also as innovators, peacemakers, activists, educators, and philosophers.”
Friendships and connections made during graduates’ time in medical school were on display during the ceremony. After the remarks and conferral of degrees, a yearbook video and congratulatory messages from faculty and staff offered heartfelt reflections on campus memories for graduates as they look ahead toward their careers as physicians.
The Class of 2020 joins a vibrant alumni network of 7,500+ physicians worldwide. Graduates will now head to 38 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces to begin their residency training. This year, 92 percent of first-time eligible graduates secured a residency position—one of the strongest residency attainment rates in AUC’s history. They will enter 19 different specialties with the majority filling critically needed primary care positions in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics.
To watch an archived livestream of the 2020 Commencement Ceremony, click here.