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Groomed to Lead

SMHS Health Sciences Graduates Prepared to Set the Standard in a Changing Health Care Environment

“There have been a few occasions when I’ve been seated as a graduate, so I know how excited, exhausted, apprehensive, and maybe a little hung over you are today,” joked Mary Corcoran, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty development for health sciences and professor of clinical management and leadership at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). In her role as master of ceremonies for the Health Sciences Graduation Celebration, May 17, Corcoran welcomed the Class of 2014, along with their friends and family. “Mostly though, you should feel very, very proud of yourselves,” she said.

Jeffrey Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs, and dean of SMHS, echoed Corcoran’s sentiment. “The fact that you are here at Lisner Auditorium today is a reflection of your hard work, many hours of study, spirit, dedication, and a commitment to help people live longer, healthier, and happier lives,” Akman stated. “As someone who has been in the health care profession for longer than I care to admit, I can tell you that your hard work will pay off in the years ahead. You’ll find careers in the health sciences to be very rewarding, and I wish you every success in whatever path you take in this most important field.”

Corcoran acknowledged the leadership skills embodied by the Health Sciences Class of 2014, who “were active participants in the GW community and their own communities; held leadership roles in regional and national organizations; engaged in innovative research, class projects, and internships; made direct improvements to hospitals, research facilities, and clinics; and have presented and published in scholarly and professional venues.” She noted that with all of the responsibilities and pressures of the health sciences curriculum, the graduates “somehow found time to compete in marathons and triathlons, to get married, and to have babies. Truly amazing.”

Two graduates in particular were honored for their remarkable accomplishments: Ana Jessica Benitez received the 2014 Health Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award and Christine E. Boyer received the 2014 Health Sciences Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

Benitez, who earned a 3.62 GPA in the B.S.H.S. sonography program, was commended for her compassion, dedication, and commitment to her patients. While working toward her degree, Benitez served as a senator for the GW Student Association, president of the GW Sonography Society, and a member of the GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Student Council.

Boyer, an Oregon native who spent two years in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer prior to pursuing an M.S.H.S. in the Physician Assistant (PA) program at SMHS, was awarded the National Health Corps Scholarship in 2012 and was elected regional chair of the national student academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants in 2013, representing students from PA programs across the mid-Atlantic region. “She is the exemplary personification of our profession’s ideals and balance,” remarked Lisa Alexander, Ed.D. ’03, M.P.H. ’89, PA ’79, assistant dean for community-based partnerships, interim chair and director of the PA program at SMHS.

In her acceptance speech, Boyer called SMHS an exceptional place to pursue an education in the health sciences. “GW has made it a priority to teach medicine in the way it’s practiced at its finest — as a team,” she said. “As a PA student, I had classes with medical students and PT students; I had instructors who were doctors, PAs, nurses, pharmacists, and researchers. I studied in the freezing cold climate of Himmelfarb Library next to sonography students and health administrative students, and it was a more enriching education because of this program diversity,” she said. Upon graduation, Boyer is looking forward to providing health care services in an underserved community in Washington, D.C.

Following the presentation of the student awards, Akman, Alexander, and Joseph Bocchino, Ed.D., M.B.A., senior associate dean for health sciences at SMHS, presented diplomas to the graduates from nearly 20 programs within the Associate of Science, Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, Master of Science in Health Sciences, and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree fields.

Bocchino closed the ceremony by issuing a charge to the graduates, in which he encouraged them to “go out and learn more. Weigh in. Check the data. Make sure that you have the facts to support any position that you choose to support. Have an opinion. Learn about the implications of your opinions. Make yourself open to new and emergent information that can change your opinion,” he said. Finally, Bocchino urged the graduates to lead. “Lead your generation of health care professionals as you redefine medicine and health care; as you redefine what constitutes quality care and how we have gotten away from it; as you ensure that underserved populations have access to the same care that is afforded to you; as we rethink scope of practice and identify new professions in the health sciences. Lead in any way you can.”