Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Geisel School of Medicine held a virtual Class Day ceremony to ensure the health and safety of the Dartmouth community and graduates’ families.
Guest speaker Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, MD congratulated the 88 graduating medical students, their parents, and grandparents, during Geisel School of Medicine’s 2020 Class Day celebration on Saturday, June 6—an annual rite of passage for medical students marking the close of their academic studies.
“To be part of this historic moment in a special ceremony—it is an honor for me,” Quinones-Hinojosa said. “It will be vividly remembered because we have seen our world turned upside down by a pandemic that has significantly impacted our health, economy, and our sense of security,” he said. “This is a very special moment—it is the beginning of a new phase of your life that will be full of achievement, and failures.”
Quinones-Hinojosa, who is chair of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, recalled his own journey from migrant farm worker to physician to illustrate how perseverance and hope, rather than fear, can change the world. He also shared lessons he has learned: Provide care, not just medical or surgical management, but care (which is possible to provide through telemedicine); understand and reflect on the big picture; and always be honest and compassionate. He also encouraged the newly minted physicians to not fear asking for help.
“Though COVID-19 changed us and disrupted us, it has allowed us to build new bridges,” he said. “Today we are facing the biggest challenge of the century—this situation is tough but … in the midst of this terrible disease, we have witnessed a kindness and unity of humanity.”
While some may view graduating remotely as unfortunate, Quinones-Hinojosa said it is the beginning of a pioneering era to imagine new opportunities in healthcare, “… You, the Class of 2020, will change the world.”
Geisel School of Medicine Dean Duane Compton, PhD, offered his congratulations to the class, their families, and friends, and thanked Quinones-Hinojosa for joining the celebration and for his inspiring remarks.
“I am here today, as the humble representative of the Geisel faculty and staff. Speaking on their behalf, I’d like to say that we are incredibly proud of what you have accomplished and for being such a rich part of our community,” Compton said.
As he talked about the connection between medicine and public health, Compton said, “I’m heartened to know that as a group, you recognize the importance of this connection--in your class mission statement you wrote, ‘We will recognize the people that the system has failed and work tirelessly to give the underserved agency over their own health. Closing the gaps that plague these communities requires us to stand up to all forms of injustice.’
“Racial and socio-economic disparities, considered the domain of public health, are under the spotlight because of how dramatically they are contributing to the medical outcomes of patients with COVID-19 … we are witnessing a pandemic where public health efforts directly impact medical outcomes of individual patients.
“I don’t know what our collective future holds,” Compton continued. “What I do know, is that I feel confident walking into that future with all of you knowing that you understand the best possible medical outcomes arise at the intersection of public health and medicine.”
In conclusion, he offered his “deepest congratulations on your graduation today.”
During the previous night’s annual award ceremony, where students, faculty and residents are recognized for their achievements, Gabriela Kovacikova ’20 received the Leonard Two Humanism in Medicine Student Award, and John Damianos ’20 received the Dean’s Leadership Award.