Medical and Graduate Students Celebrate Commencement
More than 200 students from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Graduate School of Medical Sciences representing the full scope of medicine — from research to clinical practice — crossed the renowned stage at the majestic Carnegie Hall May 31 to receive their degrees.
"It feels like yesterday that I was doing the same thing for college," said Marissa Velez, who just four years ago came to Weill Cornell as an aspiring doctor and is now starting a residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in urology next week, with a chuckle. "I’m feeling a mix of happiness and sheer terror."
|Weill Cornell Medical College and Weill Cornell Medical College Graduate School of Medical Sciences 2012 Commencement Exercises
Photo: Amelia Panico
Bouquets of red and white flowers lined the stage as Cornell University President David Skorton joined with Deans Laurie H. Glimcher and David Hajjar in conferring the degrees of doctor of medicine, master of science and doctor of philosophy.
"As graduates of Weill Cornell, you are among the best prepared in the world to take on whatever the future holds," said Dr. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, in her first commencement address as dean. "You are smart and skilled and capable. You are curious and open-minded. You are good communicators and colleagues. And you have global opportunities and a world view that many others don’t. Most important is that embedded in all the work you have done while studying here is this essential thread: The patient is at the center of everything you do.
That insight is relevant for every graduate regardless of what degree they earned what professional track they’ll take, she said.
"This commitment to patient-centricity will be your compass, your guide, your reference point, as medicine evolves, becomes more complex, more technology-driven, and more demanding," she continued. "It will be your anchor in troubled seas."
The commencement exercises recognized the triumphs of 219 students: 37 with Ph.D.s, 27 physician assistants, 11 with master of science degrees and 144 medical doctors — of who 32 are from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. With the culmination of their education behind them, they will now embark on a new journey that will shape their professional careers.
"Today I share with the faculty, Board of Overseers, Board of Trustees and with family and friends in recognizing you for your achievements, drive, dedication and sacrifices that led to this day," said Cornell University President Dr. David Skorton during his commencement address. "We’re very proud of your achievements and wish you well in your days ahead."
But before parting ways, Dr. Skorton bestowed words of wisdom upon the graduates, challenging them to preserve their curiosity, seek bench-to-bedside research, maintain a work-life balance and become mentors throughout their distinguished careers.
"We are hugely proud of what you’ve accomplished," he said, "and I’m counting on your leadership in the years ahead."
Many students have been leaders long before they reached their graduation. This year, the graduate and medical school student bodies elected two of their fellow students to address the audience and reflect on what commencement really means.
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" joked Manuel Viotti, the student speaker for the graduate school. "Practice, lots and lots of practice."
Each of the Ph.D. candidates practiced in their own way, but they are now unified as doctors and Weill Cornell graduates in pursuit of research that will enhance human health.
"We’ve accomplished an amazing feat, and we have the three letters at the end of our names to prove it," he said.
Medical College student speaker U.S. Navy Lt. David Nissan recounted why commencement feels so gratifying.
"One of the many reasons to be proud of what we’ve done is all the people who’ve been here before us," he said, invoking the story of Dr. Ida Scudder, who graduated Weill Cornell Medical College in 1899 as a member of the first class that accepted women. She was an inspiration, he said, a woman who dedicated her life to bettering the lives of others. Continuing her tradition of giving back to others is humbling, he said.
"Medical school was a journey — fantastic at times and grueling at others — and as silly as these robes are, you are wearing them because you accomplished something substantial," he said.
After 26 months of intense education and clinical training, Vanessa Scialom could hardly believe that her graduation from Weill Cornell’s Master of Science Program in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants was upon her.
"I’m happy and excited and can’t believe this day is actually here," she said. Scialom is now headed back to her home state of Texas for a residency in neurosurgery.
"I’m looking to the future, but it’s scary because I’ve been in school my whole life. The real world is going to different."
Sung-ho Park of South Korea, always wanted to study abroad, and with his acceptance to Weill Cornell Medical College as a Ph.D student, he got his chance. On Thursday, he earned his doctorate and is now turning his attention to his postdoctoral research at the Hospital of Special Surgery.
"Today I appreciate the opportunity I had to come to Weill Cornell," he said. "And now I’m starting my new future."
Hyun McLaren, of Maryland, can remember exactly when her daughter Son McLaren announced that she wanted to become a doctor — when she was just 5-years-old. As a graduate of Weill Cornell Medical School, she will be starting a residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in pediatrics.
"Her dream has come true," said Hyun McLaren. "I’m very happy for her."
"We are very proud of her because we know how difficult it is to go to medical school and live in New York away from her family," added Son’s sister, Chong Hill.
"Words can’t express how proud we are of her, for her to walk across the stage with a smile across her face and add M.D. to the end of her name."