Like nearly every other planned gathering this spring, the annual event was forced to go digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically held at the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom, this year’s event took place in the form of a Facebook livestream. Members of IU School of Medicine’s leadership shared their well wishes in pre-recorded messages, joined by keynote speaker VADM Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, U.S. Surgeon General.
Adams, a graduate of IU School of Medicine and a former faculty member with the Department of Anesthesia, spoke to the class in a prerecorded message—espousing the importance of advocacy for today’s doctors.
“You can often do as much for your patients through good communication and advocacy as you can by patching them up when they get sick or hurt. Your medical skills will save lives, but our advocacy skills can save lives as well,” Adams said. “Though this may seem like an especially challenging time to graduate from medical school, I will say it’s precisely the perfect time. You chose a profession to help people, and now more than ever people need your help.”
For a large portion of the Class of 2020, Friday’s graduation was a chance to add some closure to their IU School of Medicine experience. In April, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order allowing fourth-year medical students to graduate early and help in the fight against COVID-19 with temporary medical permits. Answering the call, more than a third of the 2020 class graduated early.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching you develop into professionals over the last several years, but particularly during this pandemic. I want you all to know how incredibly grateful I am for the way that you have stepped up for the School of Medicine and for your community,” said IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA during the ceremony. “(Through this pandemic) you have looked for ways to help. One hundred twenty-six members of the Class of 2020 graduated early, many joining the frontlines of the COVID response.”
Despite celebrating from a distance, members of the IU School of Medicine leadership maintained the pomp and circumstance of the day—many wearing full regalia during their portions of the presentation. Hess led the class in reciting the Physician’s Oath, in which doctors pledge to approach their jobs as healers with humbleness and awareness, and to always consider the health of their patients first.
Michael Adjei, MD, chosen by his classmates to be the student speaker during the event, urged his classmates to embrace the historic moment they find themselves in.
“We in the Class of 2020 are met at an inflection point—an unprecedented time in history where a pandemic has brought upon us a lot of uncertainty,” said Adjei, who will be staying at IU School of Medicine for his residency in anesthesia. “No matter what uncertainties we may be feeling right now, I want to remind you that we have been trained at one of the finest medical schools in the country, and we are well-prepared to meet the challenges of the future.”
In addition to the 432 doctorate- and master-level degrees awarded this year, 136 associate and bachelor of science degrees will be presented to graduates of IU School of Medicine Health Professions Program. The Health Professions Programs award degrees in histotechnology, paramedic science, radiology, cytotechnology, clinical laboratory science, medical imaging technology, nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, and respiratory therapy.
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the United States and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.