Health Sciences Graduates Encouraged To Take Lessons Forward

Six speakers from the virtual health sciences graduation ceremony

Looking to the future and learning from the lessons of the past year were the themes from this year’s Health Sciences Graduation Celebration at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). 

On Saturday, May 15, the graduates of the GW Health Sciences Programs celebrated their graduation in a virtual ceremony for the second year, as COVID-19 restrictions continued to prevent large gatherings. Although they couldn’t be together, graduates, faculty, and loved ones were able to share in the excitement of the event. 

Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs, dean of SMHS, and CEO of The GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA), welcomed the attendees and reflected on the students’ triumphs and successes even amid the challenges 2020-21 brought. 

“As we begin to emerge from this long, dark tunnel, I know that many of you while studying and learning, have volunteered and served as members of the medical workforce in our battle against COVID-19 as testers, vaccinators, vaccine ambassadors, and as laboratory staffers and researchers,” she said. “You have been part of the solution to bring this pandemic to an end. I am so very grateful for all you have done.”

Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Reamer Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, DFAAPA, echoed Bass’s sentiments and reminded the graduates they all gained incredible experiences to take with them moving forward. “Whether you’re starting a new job in health care or research or you’re stepping into a new leadership role, or continuing your education journey, there’s much we can learn from this past year,” he said.

The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Ozgur Ekmecki Interprofessional Leadership Award. Karen Schlumpf, MPH, director of the health sciences core curriculum at SMHS, presented the award, which recognizes health sciences students who demonstrate interprofessional scholarship, to Casey Regnier, PA, ’21, MPH ’21, as the on-campus program recipient and Kenly Morgenstern, MSHS ’21, as the online recipient.

In addition, Andrew Garrett, MD, associate professor of clinical research and leadership and program director of emergency health operations at SMHS, and Geoffrey Shapiro, director of EMS and operational training at SMHS, presented the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award to Ricky Ditzel, BSHS ’21. Ditzel thanked Shapiro for his support and mentorship while completing the Leadership for Emergency Action Disaster Response program and encouraged his fellow graduates to use the lessons they’ve learned going forward in their career.
 “I would like humbly challenge all of us here today to take what we have collectively learned from GW SMHS and to apply it to our new environments wherever that might be in the world,” he said.

Maranda Ward, EdD, assistant professor of clinical research and leadership at SMHS, presented the Outstanding Graduate Student Award to Heather Yoho, MSHS ’21, who received her degree in clinical and translational research. Echoing the other speakers at the ceremony, Yoho urged her classmates to build upon their experiences during the pandemic and their education at GW to continue to strive for health equity. 

“As graduates from the George Washington University, we have been given immense opportunities to enrich our lives and expand our knowledge,” she said. “Now it is our duty to utilize that education and knowledge to make a worldwide impact.”

Earlier in the week, on May 14, the physician assistant (PA), physical therapy (PT), and biomedical laboratory sciences (BLS) programs recognized additional outstanding graduates in virtual ceremonies. Several PA students were awarded for their work during their time at SMHS: 

  • Jeniece Montellano, PA ’21, MPH ’21, Community Service Award
  • Luz Maria Kumpel, PA ’21, Leadership Award
  • Jessica Pryor, PA ’21, Academic Excellence Award
  • David Wallace, PA ’21, MPH ’21, Student Publication Award
  • Andrew Persaud, PA ’21, Humanitarian/Professionalism Award

Among the PT students, 10 were inducted into Alpha Eta, the national honor society for allied health professions, and three — Jennifer Tang, Rashi Anand, and Rosie Catanoso — were welcomed to the National Physical Therapy Student Honor Society. Dave Smith, DPT ’16, received the Outstanding Alumni Award, and GW Hospital was awarded the Outstanding Clinical Educators Award. The individual award winners included:

  • Krystal Smith, DPT ’21, Academic Excellence Award
  • Rosie Catanoso, DPT ’21, and Samuel Schroeder, DPT ’21, Clinical Leadership Award
  • Kirsten Borsos, DPT ’21, and Theresa Buechler, DPT ’21, Service Excellence Award
  • Jennifer Tang, DPT ’21, and Julia Serrao, DPT ’21, Peer Recognition Award
  • Joanna Hsu, DPT ’21, Jean Johnson Award for Leadership, Excellence, and Quality

The BLS program highlighted students with the highest overall GPAs, as well as those who were outstanding during their clinical practicum and those who showed exceptional professionalism. In addition, 18 graduates were inducted into Alpha Eta (please find the list of total inductees at the end of this article). Individual award winners, chosen through surveys, were:

  • Michael Therrien, post-baccalaureate certificate in medical laboratory science ’21, COVID-19 Award
  • Brittany Parker, MSHS ’21, COVID-19 Award
  • Zara Tariq, MSHS ’21, COVID-19 Award
  • Iman Sayed, BSHS ’21, Community Service Award
  • Mbithe Nguku, MSHS ’21, Resilience Award
  • Mark Evans, post-baccalaureate certificate in medical laboratory science ’21, Resilience Award
  • Iman Sayed, BSHS ’21, Resilience Award
  • Angela Wholehan, MSHS ’21, Professional Involvement in Organizations Award

This year’s charge, delivered by both Kevin O’Connor, DO, associate professor of medicine and of health, human function, and rehabilitation sciences at SMHS, and Lorenzo Norris, MD, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SMHS and chief wellness officer at SMHS, GW Hospital and the GW MFA, urged the graduates to consider who they will become as they forge their own paths as leaders.

“As you go forward and build your brand, I ask you to not forget where you came from. Don’t forget what you were taught,” said O’Connor, who in January 2021 assumed the role of Physician to the President, in charge of the White House Medical Unit. “As you build your brand and move forward and you make the world better, please honor where you came from by being and doing good.”

In his charge, Norris encouraged the graduates to embrace the lessons learned from the pandemic not only to be leaders, but also to continue to be curious and to stay connected with their peers and loved ones. “At this point in time,” he said, “the lessons learned from the pandemic have only given you more experience, more maturity, and more resolve to serve your fellow man.”

Alpha Eta inductees:

  • Nicholas Ackley
  • Julia Agafonova 
  • Chisom Agbim 
  • David Alpert 
  • Maral Amani
  • Rashi Anand 
  • Cecilia Arana Yi 
  • Tina Baker
  • Kaitlin Barnet 
  • Madeline Boorigie 
  • Yimara Bosquez 
  • Richard Boye 
  • Jessica Brennan 
  • Kevin Bugin 
  • Susan Burgess
  • Erica Catanoso
  • Paula Cespedes-Turriate 
  • Caroline Clark
  • Charity Coe
  • Kristen Czerwinski 
  • Stefania D'Ambrosio 
  • Courtney Daymude 
  • Ricky Ditzel
  • Emma Engler
  • Robin Fluty
  • Morgan Focas
  • Sailaja Gajjala
  • Shanna Garcia
  • Brandon Giles 
  • Claudia Habib 
  • Bianka Haro
  • Marina Hendrickson 
  • Allison Hoyle 
  • Michaiah Hughes 
  • Lauren Kinney-Kruse 
  • Kelsey Krische 
  • Elizabeth Kruzhkov 
  • Brandon Laroche 
  • Carrie Leitholf 
  • Jennifer Masula 
  • Marvin Mata 
  • Steele McCulley 
  • Shannan Mckenzie 
  • Saralynne Miller 
  • Meredith Mock 
  • Sarah Mooney 
  • Kenly Morgenstern 
  • Zeinab Muse 
  • Duy Nguyen
  • Karen Niebert
  • Patrick O'Hara 
  • Rebecca Olbrys 
  • Denise Oliver-stergiou 
  • Michael Orr 
  • Ka Hyun Paek
  • Thomas Paone
  • Carolina Pastrana-Medina 
  • Ankur Patel 
  • Cindy Pingol
  • Jessica Pryor
  • Susan Reed
  • Eddy Ruano
  • Kellie Sawyer
  • Paul Schneider
  • Samuel Schroeder 
  • Ashley Shepherd 
  • Lauren Smith
  • Krystal Smith
  • Sirivone Souvannavong 
  • Ryan Springfield 
  • Laura Streicher 
  • Anjalie Subramanian 
  • Lauren Svenson 
  • Yoshiko Tamura 
  • Jennifer Tang
  • David Tsai
  • Laura Voss
  • Thomas Waldrop Shane Ward
  • Ashley Washington 
  • Jennifer Weaver 
  • Angela Wholehan 
  • Brittany Wilbourn 
  • Marie Williams 
  • Heather Yoho 

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