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Graduation 2016

Welcome to Graduation 2016

On Friday May 13, the medical school hosted ceremonies for the MD graduating students as well as its other advanced degree graduates. The Convocation and Hooding Ceremony for the MD graduates featured a number of speakers, including Chris Kogut, M’04, H’09, Peter Ghamarian, M’16, and Jerry Strauss III. M.D., Ph.D.

This year’s convocation speaker was the Class of 2004’s Christopher P. Kogut, assistant professor of psychiatry. A psychiatrist on the general hospital consult service, among other roles, he reminded the graduates, “You may have seen me see running about the hospital with my massive pack of psychiatrists and students on the consult service, stamping out mental illness around the hospital.”

He went on to tell a story of a 76-year-old man who’d been seen by his team. In the aftermath of the loss of his wife, knee replacement surgery and a host of other changes in his life, the patient was reduced to tears. The intimate and thoroughly human encounter was uncomfortable for some on the team.

b9 160513_379_aj__sr_5X7Convocation Speaker, the Class of 2004’s Christopher P. Kogut, assistant professor of psychiatry

“Part of being a physician is learning to abide the suffering of our patients, to stand with our patients as they struggle,” he told his audience.  “We can’t lose sight of the humanity of our patients, even when it is emotionally challenging for us. … When you have those challenging encounters, try to recognize them for what they are – they’re challenging encounters, but there is still a person on the other side.  Try to remember their humanity, and to approach your care from a place of love.

“Until now, your primary obligation as students has been to yourselves.  You have been here to learn, grow your knowledge and your skills with the goal of becoming a professional, a physician.  Now that you’ve accomplished that goal, your duty shifts.  From now on your primary obligation is to your patients – to their care and their well-being.  Love your patients.  If you can continue to see their humanity in the face of billing pressures, hospital hassles and bureaucratic annoyances, you will be able to continue to be the compassionate healers that you are becoming.  Try not to flee when your patients cry.”

A three-time VCU alumnus, Kogut earned a master’s in social work in 1996 and also completed his residency training in psychiatry on the MCV Campus in 2009.

Class President Peter Ghamarian, M’16, had the opportunity to deliver his farewell address to his classmates. The child of immigrants who had left Iran after the revolution changed everything in their native country, Peter along with his older brother often listened to their father describe America as the land of opportunity. His sons went on to prove the truth of that, with the pair earning medical degrees within years of each other.

“Three years ago my brother was exactly in our shoes,” Ghamarian said. A newly minted M.D., he eagerly headed into residency training. But during orientation week, he called his younger brother with the news: he’d been diagnosed with cancer.

Class of 2016 President Peter Ghamarian

Ghamarian was devastated. In the midst of his own studies, he went to be with his brother during surgery. And he sought advice from Chris Woleben, M’97, H’01, who’s now associate dean for student affairs. Ghamarian took to heart the idea that difficult situations are opportunities for growth.

Now, three years later, he reported, “During his first year of residency my awesome brother beat cancer and he has been thriving ever since. About a month ago, he learned that he earned the highest In Training Exam score that his anesthesia program has ever seen. Now if that is not resilience and overcoming a challenge then I really don't know what is. So when times will surely get hard next year and beyond, I hope we can all remember that no hurdle is too large for any of us.”

Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., marked his 11th Convocation and Hooding Ceremony as dean of the School of Medicine. Earlier this year, he announced his intention to step down as dean, and so this ceremony is likely the last he will preside over. Interim Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs Susan DiGiovanni, M’84, H’89, took the opportunity to recognize him and thank you for his leadership.

Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

She included in her remarks the words of graduating student Katie Waybill:  “I remember meeting Dr. Strauss our first week of medical school and being struck by his humility and kindness. He took to the time to learn my name and any time we crossed paths he always stopped for a minute to hear how things were going. His dedication to the quality of our experience and education at MCV was clearly a priority. He made this evident through his active engagement in the preparation for our LCME site visit and attendance at monthly dean’s meetings, and I consider myself lucky to have worked with him. Most importantly, I am glad to have gotten to know him and to have learned from him as a mentor and role model, and I know his compassion for students will be deeply missed in the years to come.”

After thanking Strauss for his vision, leadership and support during his tenure as dean, DiGiovanni turned the podium over to him.

“It’s been a privilege and honor to be dean during the time the Class of 2016 received its medical education,” said Strauss. “Having launched 2,000 physicians while dean of the medical school is one of my most important contributions to society.”

Graduation weekend also marked the conclusion of training for students with advanced degrees, including 41 who earned doctoral degrees, 64 who earned master’s and 71 certificate graduates.

At the Advanced Degree Recognition Ceremony, Jan F. Chlebowski, Ph.D., the medical school’s associate dean for graduate education, noted that these graduates included the first Ph.D. graduate from the Healthcare Policy and Research program and the first graduate from the International Program in Addiction Studies Certificate program. In addition, the Ph.D. program in Pharmacology and Toxicology passed the milestone of 300 Ph.D. graduates, with the program now standing at 310 degrees awarded.

Graduation weekend also marked the conclusion of training for students with advanced degrees, including 41 who earned doctoral degrees, 64 who earned master’s and 71 certificate graduates.
 
At the Advanced Degree Recognition Ceremony, Jan F. Chlebowski, Ph.D., the medical school’s associate dean for graduate education, noted that these graduates included the first Ph.D. graduate from the Healthcare Policy and Research program and the first graduate from the International Program in Addiction Studies Certificate program.  In addition, the Ph.D. program in Pharmacology and Toxicology passed the milestone of 300 Ph.D. graduates, with the program now standing at 310 degrees awarded.