Song of Success at Health Sciences Graduation
Inspirational messages from student award winners and GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) faculty blended with the tones and drone of bagpipes for an overall celebratory tune at the Health Sciences graduation ceremony on May 16.
“This is so exciting,” said Mary Corcoran, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty development for health sciences and professor of clinical research and leadership at SMHS. “Can you believe you’re finally here? There are so many times that you probably got yourself through long nights, early mornings, tough tests, clinical rotations, and thought about sitting here and getting ready to graduate. We are so proud of you. So, let’s get this celebration started.”
Traditionally, SMHS recognizes the academic achievement and service of its students at the graduation ceremony, but this year was different for one reason: there were so many students worthy of recognition. In addition to recent graduates who had served in the military and those who had earned inductions into honor society Alpha Eta, Health Sciences program faculty recognized not two, but three outstanding students.
First, Cassie Robertson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacogenomics, while simultaneously pursuing a doctoral degree in pharmacy at Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy, received the Outstanding Undergraduate Award. Robertson credited her parents — and her mother’s advice to apply sparkly stickers to the binders of her more difficult courses — for her achievements.
Second, Elizabeth Prevou, PA-C, M.P.H., accepted the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. She urged her classmates to maintain perspective and a positive attitude as they transition from the SMHS classroom to the clinic.
“I want you to close your eyes,” she instructed. “Remember just how hard some of those days were. Open your eyes now and look up. We deserve a moment without hesitation, distraction, worry, doubt. We owe it to ourselves to take this moment here at graduation, look up, and appreciate where we started compared to where we are now, and how proud we can be for what we’ve accomplished to get here.”
Finally, Angela Vince, a 54-year-old distance learning student from Detroit, Michigan, was also awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Vince, who plays dual roles as a clinical research professional and yoga instructor, earned her master’s degree in clinical research administration with a perfect grade point average.
Additionally, faculty awarded the Alumni Association Prize to Megan Scovil, DPT, for her commitment to the university and its community and for her leadership, high academic performance, and extracurricular work. Earlier in commencement week, Scovil received the Academic Excellence Award from the GW Physical Therapy Department.
For most of the students, graduation was a poignant experience, a day of both pats on the back and tears.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Rachel Haman, DPT, the day before graduation. “This class has become my family the past few years. It’s exciting to see everyone accomplish something that’s been our dream for a while.”
Ken Haman (“I’m the father of the doctor”) agreed: “You don’t just [graduate with a doctorate in physical therapy] overnight; that’s discipline and drive, vision and commitment. And a little bit of craziness.”
Latrina Watkins, who earned her master in health sciences degree in clinical research administration, also attributed her success to determination.
“This has really been a journey for me,” Watkins said, as she lined up before the ceremony. “I had twins during the course of my matriculation. I was also able to get a promotion when [my company] found out I was completing the program; now, I’m manager of clinical operations. I’m really grateful, and I’m super excited about today.”
As bagpipes ushered the students — all of whom recited the health sciences pledge at the conclusion of the ceremony — out of the auditorium, the words of Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs at GW, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, resonated through the crowd.
“The fact that you’re in Lisner Auditorium today is a reflection of your hard work, many hours of study, a spirit of dedication, and a commitment to helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives,” he said. “Take whatever you’ve learned here, use it for good, and have successful and rewarding careers.”
Or, as Joseph Bocchino, Ed.D., M.B.A., senior associate dean for health sciences, put it simply: “Lead in any way you can.”