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Health Sciences Graduation Celebration

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,” is a famous quote by Dr. Seuss that was chosen as the conclusion of remarks by Katherine Irene Rose Lemming, a graduating student with a Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences in the pharmacogenomics program at the GW School of Medicine and Health Science (SMHS), and recipient of the Health Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award at the Health Sciences graduation celebration held, May 18 at Lisner Auditorium.

While the grand event was a special ceremony where all of the students were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and for meeting the next milestone to reach their career goals, there was an underlying theme to the event that took place organically as the esteemed speakers addressed the graduates, their families, and friends. The notion of “continuing to strive for academic excellence in health care” and making the choice to maintain a life-long passion for learning echoed the Dr. Seuss quote in each speaker’s remarks and by each faculty member who addressed the graduations.

Lemming, who was the first awardee to address the graduates, reminded them that this is a time to “look forward, as the journey is just starting.” As health care professionals, all of the graduates have dedicated their lives to helping others, and she encouraged them to strive to enhance their knowledge. Lemming was given the Health Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award for her excellence in academics, service, and leadership.

As Joshua D’Angelo, a doctor of physical therapy student, Mary McMillian Scholarship Awardee, and recipient of the Health Sciences Outstanding Graduate Student Award pointed out to the attendees, there were 17 different degrees given at the ceremony. He explained that health sciences includes a wide breadth of careers in the health care field—all of whom are partners in the clinical world, and ultimately, partners in patient outcomes. D’Angelo reminded the graduates that it is a privilege to be a part of a health care team, and along with colleagues in medicine and other health care sciences, the onus is on them, as teammates, to provide high quality care. He also noted that “the only way to make improvements to health care is to use our voices in a directive fashion” and improve the patient experience together. D’Angelo was given the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for his excellence in academics, service, and leadership. During the weekend, D’Angelo also received the prestigious George Washington Award, which is given to one student, one staff member, and one faculty member. He was honored for his efforts to advance the university goals by maximizing the connection between the university and the surrounding communities, working with students to advance academic and extracurricular pursuits and exhibiting integrity, goodwill and dedication in working with and for GW.

The final awardee to address the graduates was Larissa May, M.D. ’02, G.M.E. ’06, M.P.H. ’08, B.S. ’97, MSHS Clinical Translational Research and recipient of the Alumni Association Prize for her commitment to the university and the community, as well as her academic and extracurricular accomplishments, and leadership. May spoke of her career in medicine and noted that GW has provided her with unique experiences that have guided her career. She noted that she, and many of her GW colleagues, share a passion for life-long learning because of the culture at GW. Each day she grows and learns from them, her patients, and others around her. She encouraged the graduates to seek out a mentor or be a mentee, noting that “a person is never too young to be a mentor or too old to be a mentee.” She also encouraged the graduates to be ambassadors for GW.

Next the graduates crossed the stage, accepted their diplomas and shook the hands of their program directors, the senior associate dean for health sciences, and the dean of SMHS.

After the diplomas were handed out and the graduates received recognition from their family, friends, faculty, and fellow graduates, Joseph Bocchino, Ed.D., M.B.A., senior associate dean for health sciences at SMHS, addressed the graduates and relayed the charge.  He began by asking the graduates to reflect on the occasion and the past several years of their education. He posed the questions “Is this the highest mountain you’ve ever scaled?” and “Why did you take the path you’ve chosen?”  He said that they have chosen a career that expects them to respect each patient and work diligently for the benefit of others. Furthermore, Bocchino encouraged the graduates to seek new knowledge, pursue their careers with strength and courage, and contribute to the next generation of health care professionals.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, the health sciences graduates followed the procession of bagpipes and faculty out into the world as newly minted health care professionals who will impact the lives of others and shape the future of health care.