The music of bagpipes ushered graduates from the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) into Lisner Auditorium on the evening of May 20 for the Health Sciences Diploma Ceremony, and all eyes were on them as they took their place in the center of the room, surrounded by friends, family, and SMHS faculty.
Mary A. Corcoran, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA, associate dean of faculty development for student affairs at SMHS opened the ceremony, congratulating the students. “You’ve had a long climb with late nights and early mornings,” she said. “Here you are. Your achievements are on display. You are each the new and improved version of who you were when you started here.”
Next, Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, took to the podium to continue in delivering accolades to the graduates. Akman also reminded the Class of 2017 of their new responsibilities to their community, country, and the world. “As we continue to experience dramatic changes in health care, there is one thing that will not change, and that is the values that form the foundation of the health care profession,” he said.
Throughout their time at SMHS, the Class of 2017 has worked hard to demonstrate those values. Corcoran noted the difficulty in choosing just a handful of students for the Health Sciences student awards, citing, among many, the work done by Natalia Aguero, D.P.T. ’17, who performed the national anthem at the ceremony. Aguero collaborated with physical therapy (P.T.) faculty to design and study the health benefits of a rock climbing program for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Outstanding Graduate Student Award recipient, Majorie Brown, who received her M.S.H.S. in clinical research administration, echoed Akman’s words. “Our country’s health care system is going through a major transition, and our work is more important now than ever before,” she said. “Every problem holds an opportunity so great that it dwarfs the problem itself.”
The awards presentation was followed by the moment these students had been waiting for: the presentation of diplomas.
Kathleen O’Neill, D.P.T. ’17, B.S. ’14, reflected on the road to getting to the end. “P.T. school was a lot harder than I expected. But it’s exciting to be here and experience this together,” she said.
Hannah Hutter, M.S.H.S. ‘17, found the experience relieving. Even though classes had been over for a few weeks, now that her family was in town, it felt “like a real celebration.”
Following the presentation of diplomas, Reamer L. Bushardt, Pharm.D., P.A.-C., DFAAPA, senior associate dean for health sciences, led the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath and closed the ceremony with a charge to the graduates. Keeping with the theme of confronting change in health care, Bushardt advised the grads, “You are filled with character and the capacity for leadership that our world is crying out for right now.”