A Culmination of Learning and Application

Health Sciences 2022 Graduates Embark on Careers of Service in a “Beautifully Personal and Human Way"
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This year’s George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences graduation celebration for the Health Sciences programs, on Saturday, May 14, was a notable one: it was the first in-person ceremony in two years, and it recognized graduates from 2020, 2021, and 2022. For graduates of the PhD in translation health sciences and the doctor of health sciences programs, it was the first in-person ceremony – ever. Threaded throughout the day was a theme of overcoming the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic while also embracing the silver linings: the advancements in care and vaccines, the generosity and perseverance of those in the medical community, and the chance to learn from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.



“Today, we’re launching you on the journey to continue your lifelong learning,” said Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs and dean of the GW SMHS, and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates. “The excitement of learning and application is not only great, but also a rare and valuable privilege that you have earned. What may have at times felt like hard work is really an awesome ticket to the chance to serve others in a beautifully personal and human way.”



The GW SMHS faculty also took the opportunity to recognize several exceptional graduates. The recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, Alexandra Davis, BSHS ’22, is a U.S. Navy veteran, a high-achieving student, and a dedicated researcher living in Alaska. With a host of experiences, she was well-prepared to deliver a charge to students during her acceptance, filmed from her home in the Last Frontier. 



“Remember, you’re not alone,” she said. “Working in health sciences means you are part of an innovative team that works hard and takes risks. No matter what your major or degree is, no matter how small you think your role may seem, you are an integral part of a significant industry that has a profound impact on the world. From molecular diagnostics to clinical administration and everyone in between, you are vital.”



The Outstanding Graduate Student Award recipient, Wencesley A. Paez, MD, MSHS ’21, is not only a notable academic, but he also received – and accepted ¬– a teaching position at GW SMHS: adjunct assistant professor of clinical research and leadership. He echoed Davis’s words of wisdom.

“Whatever life throws at you, persevere, have perspective, realize that anything is possible if you’re passionate about what you do, and conduct yourselves as productive citizens in this society,” he said. “Most importantly, always move forward with pride, GW pride.”



The ceremony also highlighted the Ozgur Ekmekci Interprofessional Leadership Award, created in honor of the late GW SMHS professor who “actively promoted interprofessional collaboration and scholarship both within and outside the health sciences,” explained presenter Karen S. Schlumpf, MPH ’00, director of research core curriculum and instructor of clinical research and leadership at GW SMHS. This year’s online program recipient was Yvonne Rodriguez, MSHS ’22, and the campus program recipient was Edith Teng, PA ’22.



The advice continued with a charge from Reamer L. Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, DFAAPA, senior associate dean for health sciences at GW SMHS. He noted, “Serve others with compassion. Accept that you will never possess all the knowledge you need. Instead, learn to harness knowledge and recognize your own limitations. Be an agent of positive change within your community. Be present – take time to nurture your personal and professional relationships. Finally, choose the path of leadership, and lead through your character by embracing courage, integrity, selflessness, empathy, collaboration, and reflection.”



Three classes of graduates then crossed the stage at Lisner Auditorium, collecting diplomas, shaking hands, and bumping elbows or fists. They recited the SMHS pledge, the final step before leaving the theater and walking toward their future.

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