INDIANAPOLIS—For the second year in a row, Indiana University School of Medicine hosted its graduation recognition ceremony in a virtual setting, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Class of 2021 were honored Friday, May 14, with members of IU School of Medicine leadership sharing their well wishes in pre-recorded messages. They were joined by keynote speaker Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP. She is the physician, scientist and activist who exposed the Flint water crisis.
During her speech, Hanna-Attisha spoke of the important role doctors play not only in the lives of their patients, but in the communities in which they work.
“Being a doctor means being a protector of health. … With that long white coat comes power and privilege, and credibility. It makes you a respected expert in an era when not many professions are held in high regard,” said Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and the founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Health Initiative.
“My MD was a megaphone for the kids of Flint and I used it. I was loud and stubborn and persistent. And ultimately it was the voice of medicine that changed the trajectory of an entire city. … From this day on, you are all entrusted to be the voice of health.”
One of those new doctors was Mohammad Aref, who recently earned his MD and PhD in anatomy, cell biology and physiology. Aref was chosen by his peers to speak during the ceremony. Speaking of the “beautiful burden of the white coat,” Aref implored his classmates to remember their mission as healers as they enter the next stage of their training.
“After going through COVID together I believe we are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of the world. We are here today to celebrate more than the two letters behind our names—we are here to celebrate and memorialize our individual and collective journeys of betterment. Not just to enrich ourselves, but to increase our capacity to serve. Not to take more, but to increase how much we can give,” said Aref, who will soon be starting his residency in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. “You taught me that when we wear our coats, we give our patients and our communities an implicit promise that we will do everything in our power to care for their health and their person.”
For the Class of 2021, Friday’s graduation was an opportunity to add some closure to their IU School of Medicine experience—one that will be forever linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would be an understatement to say this has been a very challenging year. We know that your final year didn’t start or end the way you expected. And I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to congratulate you in person. Whether you’ve spent your time pursuing a Master’s, MD or PhD degree, or some combination of these, I’ve had the privilege of watching you develop into professionals over the last several years and especially during the pandemic. I want you all to know how incredibly grateful I am for the way you have stepped up for the School of Medicine and for our community,” said IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA, during the ceremony. “I know that you will always remember the past year and it will serve as a powerful reminder that your work—whether it is caring for patients or research or teaching—matters.”
In addition to the 414 doctorate- and master-level degrees awarded this year, 134 associate and Bachelor of Science degrees will be earned by graduates of the IU School of Medicine Health Professions Program. The Health Professions Programs award degrees in histotechnology, paramedic science, radiology, cytotechnology, clinical laboratory science, medical 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.