News » MD Class of 2021 Celebrates Big Changes on the Horizon

MD Class of 2021 Celebrates Big Changes on the Horizon

Members of the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) MD program Class of 2021, faculty members and alumni of the school, and friends and family from across the country and around the world once again gathered virtually to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work and dedication of this year’s medical school graduates.

“We have all experienced this last year, this vast global pandemic in a very personal way, each in our own lived experience,” Barbara Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs, dean of GW SMHS and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates, told the audience in her welcoming remarks. “It’s surely a period we never imagined and now we’ll never forget.”

She added, “Over these last 12 months, you have shown compassion, resilience, generosity, and bravery. We, your faculty and teachers of all sorts in this school, are so proud to have supported your growth and metamorphosis into doctors during this remarkable time.”

Following the dean’s welcome remarks, valedictorians Pradeep Ramamurthy, MD ’21, and Caitlin Marie Ward, MD ’21, who introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Luciana Borio, MD ’96, BS ’92, vice president, In-Q-Tel, and senior fellow for global health, the Council on Foreign Relations.

In her remarks, Borio took a moment to recall the vital role Henry Masur, MD, chief of critical care medicine at the National Institutes of Health, had on her career. “Put simply, without his mentorship,” she said, “I wouldn’t have become the doctor who I am today.”

Even now, Borio continued, despite being friends and colleagues, she still considers Masur her mentor. “Whenever I face a tough issue — how to treat a patient, whether to accept the job, what to discuss in a commencement address — I can always count on Dr. Masur for candid counsel.”

“Why am I telling you this?” she asked. “Because if you don’t have a mentor, then you need to get one. Tomorrow. Finding a mentor is the single best investment you can make in your career.”

Borio turned her attention to the soul of medicine: empathy. She quoted poet Maya Angelou, who said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

She recalled a patient who came to her, having just been discharged from the hospital. The patient was using drugs and had advanced AIDS. Years later the patient told Borio, “You looked me in the eyes and asked one question, ‘Do you want to live, or do you want to die?’ ”

“I was dumbstruck,” Borio recalled, “not to mention mortified. ‘Did I really say that?’ I asked. ‘Yup,’ came the reply, ‘and thank you for doing so. That meant you cared, and that was exactly the spark that I needed to turn my life around.’ ”

Technology is transforming medicine, Borio noted. Already, artificial intelligence, in some cases, is reading certain radiological images more accurately than radiologists. “But [technology] can’t displace you if you hold on to what’s essential, that care for your patients. Nor can technology advocate for your patients as well as you can. In short, Siri and Alexa have neither the sensitivity nor the sagacity to ask a dying woman, ‘Do you want to live, or do you want to die?’ ”

Borio concluded her remarks by acknowledging the challenges the Class of 2021 has experienced en route to earning a medical degree while also issuing a challenge to the graduates. “You earned your degree during a time of great turmoil,” she said. “You’re the first class to cut its teeth in the worst pandemic of more than 100 years. As a result, you are about to practice medicine in a world that’s been profoundly altered.”

“Yet a pandemic also offers opportunities to build back better, as President Biden likes to say,” continued Borio. COVID-19, she explained, has unmasked unacceptable health disparities. “It will be your class and your generation that will steer people where they need to be, toward a society where one’s social standing does not dictate one’s health.”

Pranav Krushna Kaul, MD ’21, followed Borio’s address with some words of encouragement for his classmates as they begin their residency training this summer.

“My hope for us today is that we’re reminded to be confident and proud of ourselves, and with that, we will do and create great big things,” Kaul said. “For our patients and our profession, yes, but more importantly, for ourselves and our families and communities. Why? Because we already have.”

Rounding out the day’s events, Dean Bass addressed the newest members of the GW SMHS alumni family. She reminded graduates that, from patient-centered, compassionate care to transformational policies and health care access and delivery, change doesn’t just happen. It happens because “people with passion, the skills, training, and the lifelong commitment to stay at the top of their games jump in, lead, and persevere. They care and do all they can to create a valuable impact and make our people and communities healthy.”

Like Borio before her, Dean Bass cited the pandemic’s role in spotlighting the nation’s health disparity crisis. “As a school, we’ve launched numerous initiatives to dismantle the structures that have allowed persistent inequity in even our own privileged community. Here at GW, our Anti-Racism Coalition, the work of our White Coats for Black Lives student groups, and the Committee on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence are providing important goals, metrics, and initiatives to guide us to true inclusive excellence unencumbered by structural barriers.”

She then charged the graduates with carrying the effort forward as they take the next steps in their medical careers and beyond. “I ask that each of you commit to action in your upcoming roles as residents around the nation to dismantle the old structures and build new structures that will allow us all to be at our best personally and in serving our diverse nation.”

“As you join your new teams as PGY1 residents, in the weeks ahead, know that your faculty, staff, deans are all proud to have helped lift you to this moment,” Dean Bass concluded. “You are now our terrific GW ambassadors to the world of medicine. So, to each of you, go forward to do your great work as a physician. You are ready.”


MD Class of 2021 Student Award Winners

Medical Student Excellence in Anesthesiology Award
Trevor Hebenstreit

Medical Alumni Association Award
Reem Qabas Al Shabeeb

Robert Keith Cole Memorial Award
Alicia Thomas Lipscomb
Taylor Nicole Wahrenbrock

Dean’s Special Recognition Award
Daniel Ezekiel Bestourous

Social Justice in Medicine Award
Charles Hartley

Walter Freeman Research Award
Aslam Akhtar
Kendrah Valerie Osei

Doris DeFord Speck and George Speck, MD Student Research Award
Neil Deryck Almeida

William G. Schafhirt Award
Louisa Howard

John Ordronaux Valedictorian Award
Pradip Ramamurti
Caitlin Marie Ward

Lawrence A. Rapee Valedictorian Award
Pradip Ramamurti
Caitlin Marie Ward

The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award Presented by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation
Kime Cleary McClintock

Walter F. Rosenberg Award in Dermatology
Chapman Wei

Department of Emergency Medicine Award
Arman Hussain

Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Award
Paulyne Bora Lee

American College of Emergency Physicians Award
Pranav Krushna Kaul

Benjamin Manchester Humanitarianism Award
Charles Hartley

Office of International Medicine Programs, Global Health Humanitarian Service Award
Harleen Kaur Marwah
Christina Marie Pugliese

Allie S. Freed Award in Preventive Medicine
Chinelo Lynette Onyilofor

Phillip S. Birnbaum Award in Primary Care
Erika Pashai

Mark Millen Memorial Award
Marissa Gabriella Mangini

Jorge C. Rios Award in Internal Medicine
Maria Abigail Sangalang Cerezo

Hyman R. Posin Award in Neurology
Lauren Marie Vilardo

American Academy of Neurology Excellence in Neurology
Melesilika Elisapeti Finau

Samuel M. and Miriam S. Dodek Award in Reproductive Endocrinology
Prabhleen K. Aneja

Rachel Morris Dominick Obstetrics and Gynecology Award
Rose Saskia Milando
Taniya Varnae Walker

Huron W. Lawson Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Megan Fuerst

Julius S. Neviaser Award in Orthopaedic Surgery
Pradip Ramamurti

College of American Pathologists Distinguished Medical Student Award
Noor Habboosh

Pediatric Departmental Award for Excellence in Care, Advocacy, Research, and Education
Sivan Aliza Ben-Maimon
Ciara R. Brown

Salman O. Kazmi Memorial Award in Urology
Ezra Jonathan Shoen

Jerry M. Wiener Award in Psychiatry
Tulha A. Siddiqi

Navdeep S. Kang Award for Excellence and Service
Celia Shoily Islam

Alec Horwitz Award in Surgery
Ryan Paul Lin

Paul L. DeWitt Award in Surgery
Mary Katherine Matecki

Excellence in Public Health Award
Harleen Marwah

Excellence in Family Medicine Award
Louisa Carrigan Fitzsimons Howard

Student National Medical Association Hope Jackson Award
Alva Powell


Gold Humanism Honor Society
Recognizing Humanistic Exemplars

Reem Qabas Al Shabeeb
Iman Hany Aly
Gabrielle Aquino
Sivan Aliza Ben-Maimon
Hannah Rosemarie Chase
Gifty Aboagye Dominah
Sara Jean Emamian
Megan Fuerst
Jonathan George Gougelet
Noor Habboosh
Charles Hartley
Louisa Carrigan Fitzsimons Howard
Elaine Bywater Hynds
Samantha Arden Izuno
Pranav Krushna Kaul
Jessenia Alicia Elsa Knowles
Ryan Paul Lin
Alicia Thomas Lipscomb
Harleen Kaur Marwah
Kime Cleary McClintock
Paulina Angeline Ong
Alva Powell
Sanjana Rao
Aida Roman
Natalie Alena Rosseau
Taylor Nicole Wahrenbrock