On Wednesday evening, the Geisel School of Medicine’s 2021 Class Day ceremony celebrated an annual rite of passage for medical students—the close of their academic studies. Originally planned as one of the School’s first large in-person events of the year, the event was held virtually due to severe weather.
Geisel Dean Duane Compton, PhD, congratulated the graduates and welcomed their families and friends to the May 26 festivities featuring guest speaker Rita Charon, MD, PhD, student speaker Patrick Tolosky MED ’21, and Geisel Alumni Council President John Houde MED ’92, who welcomed the 99 new physicians into their alumni family.
Charon, a general internist, literary scholar, and originator of the field of narrative medicine, is founding chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics, and professor of medicine at Columbia University. Her essays appear in leading medical and literary journals, and her most recent book, The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine, was published in 2017.
Noting that the graduates are coming of age during the double plague of racial injustice and pandemic, Charon said, “Those who came before you and those who come after you will recognize you as the pinnacle generation, because you are the ones who took the risk, measured it, and didn’t flinch in the face of the unfathomable—your clinical training transformed.”
She also deemed the Class of 2021, “the most experienced graduating class ever, not in pandemic medicine but in fundamental medicine—medicine stripped down to its essence. I hope you feel your mastery and what you have earned—you have become our role models.” She then advised them to continue making raising their voices for others to hear, through writing, photography, and other creative means, “Your medicine is your art, make it yours.”
Honored to be selected by his peers, Tolosky asked everyone to take a minute to thank those who made their journey through medical school possible.
Tolosky then spoke of the necessity of being present. “I don’t know the five most important values for an intern or the 30-step plan to build resilience. What I do know is that where we are going is sacred ground, but only if we choose to see it that way. … and the necessity, the difficulty, and the beauty of being present in a life where we have chosen to be healers.
“Being present isn’t some abstract skill or practice, it is literally the only reality we live in, … if we aren’t present, we can’t learn from our patients; we can’t be healers … beyond the walls of the clinic being present allows us to find more joy in a garden or when playing with a child. It lets us see the beauty of a sunny day on the drive home after a hard day’s work. … It is also required when looking toward the future as it has the power to unify us in this unprecedented age where technology will only continue to challenge us.”
In closing, he noted his classmates inspired him, pushed him to be a better human being, and provided good cheer during their four years together, “Thank you all for everything you have gifted to me and everything we have shared with one another.”
Bringing the celebration to close, Dean Compton announced Matthew Yu Jiang MED ’21 as the winner of The William Mellen Chamberlain Memorial Prize and Dean’s Medal—awarded each year to a member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the faculty, has the best overall record of achievement during their four years of study at Geisel.
Selected by members of their class as someone who best exemplifies the personal and intangible qualities of the good physician—caring and empathy—two graduates, Tianrae Chu MED ’21 and Patrick Tolosky received The Good Physician Award.
During the previous evening’s annual Student and Faculty Awards ceremony, hosted by John F. Dick III MED ’03, interim senior associate dean for medical education, students, faculty, and residents were recognized for their achievements. Among the awards conferred Tuesday, Kathryn C. Collier MED ’21 received The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for students, and Richard Barth, MD, professor of surgery, was the faculty recipient. Shuaibu Ali MED ’21 received the Dean’s Leadership Award. Arvind Suresh, a second-year medical student was also recognized for receiving the competitive U.S. Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award that cites visionary medical students who are advancing initiatives to improve public health.
Links for Class Day and Awards Ceremony programs: