Tackling a Rapidly Changing World

GW SMHS MD Program Class of 2022 Ready to Enter an Evolving Health Care Landscape with the Confidence of Experience
Authored by

The MD Diploma Ceremony for the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) marked a return to tradition as well as the next steps for the school’s newest alumni, May 15. Behind the procession of Scottish drums and bagpipes, MD Program Class of 2022 — 166 members  strong — returned to the aisles of Lisner Auditorium after a three-year hiatus to celebrate graduation. 

“I am so honored to be able to gather together for this great celebratory moment. I have actually been in this job for almost two and a half years, and this is the first time we’ve been able to do this together in a long time,” said Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs, dean of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA) said. “We’re here to acknowledge and celebrate the success of each of our outstanding medical school graduates … [and] mark this moment of achievement and transition to that next stage of the journey for our graduates on their pathway to becoming a fully formed physicians; compassionate, knowledgeable, and skilled.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, Bass told the audience, “has brought really intense awareness to the oaths and pledges that we make as physicians, and for our mission to provide care to the city despite the hazards.”

As students, she continued, “You have shown compassion, courage, resilience, generosity. We are faculty, staff, and teachers of all sorts in this school are so proud to support each other and metamorphosis during this remarkable time.”

“The world is changing rapidly, and the demands that will be placed on you are going to be quite significant,” began GW President Mark Wrighton in his welcoming remarks. He noted that, despite significant advances in technology, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and the way medicine is practiced, the pandemic led to a pause in the advance of life expectancy. “I hope in your career here we see a return to the advance of a higher-quality, long-term life.”

Class of 2022 co-valedictorians Eleanor Gerhard, MD ’22, and Lea Erin McDaniel, MD ’22, shared the honor of introducing keynote speaker LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, MD, MPH, director of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Most recently Nesbitt, a board-certified family physician with more than a decade of experience leading population health initiatives in governmental public health agencies, led the District’s COVID-19 pandemic response. An expert in population health and wellness, she also has held leadership roles as the interim director of the District’s Department of Behavioral Health and with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. Nasbitt has led multi-sector collaborations to address innovation in health care delivery and its impact on cost and vulnerable populations; the integration of public health and health care; and the impact of social policies on the public’s health.

“I’m extremely honored to be here with you all on this occasion,” Nesbitt began. ‘Nearly 20 years ago, I sat in an auditorium nearly identical to this at the University of Michigan, with about 250 of my medical school colleagues waiting to switch out our little white jackets for the long white coats and to become medical doctors. 

She remarked how Governor Jennifer Granholm was a champion for public health and disease prevention throughout the state, advocating for public health programs and policy development, and cultivating strategic partnerships that would include measures of public health and building a robust public health infrastructure in the state after years of high yielding public health programs. 

“I had no idea at the time that my career would be very close to activism, and there was 20 years later, I was being asked to give a commencement address to you all.”

In her address, Nebitt noted the ever-evolving nature of medicine and the opportunities for rapid change global health issues can inspire. She pointed to past pandemics, including the influenza pandemic of 1918, as a reminder that out of adversity can come lasting positive change such as more robust, comprehensive public health system.

“What remains unchanged is our inherent responsibility as physicians to choosing the best solution,” she said. “I have to tell you that it will be a great opportunity for you to be a part of that change and to be a catalyst for that change in the next year. We are waiting in anticipation for you to graduate, to finish your residency programs, and to lead change.”

Nesbitt concluded by adding, that as physicians, the graduates have an incredible amount of power and privilege. “That power and privilege allows us to not only change agents and leaders in health and health care, but also in the broader community.”

The Class of 2022 student address was delivered by Elizabeth C. Ghandakly, MD ’22. She noted that, typically, medical school a very formative time for new experiences, increasing responsibility, and “it’s a time to learn how to be doctors and how to tackle the unexpected things life may throw our way.” 

“Well for us,” Ghandakly joked, “the Class of 2022, we may have taken that whole ‘tackle the unexpected’ thing a little too far.”

She concluded by reminding her classmates that, “None of us know just what the next four years will bring. We've prepared our minds and our hearts during our unique time here at GW, and we've added knowledge that we can seize the unexpected and keep going. So, when the path we’ve planned for changes before our eyes in the years to come, we cann all think back to our time here at GW and remember we've got to do this. We've done this before.”

Following her remarks, Ghandakly presented the inaugural Student’s Choice award to Adam Munday, MD ’22. The award is presented to a fourth-year student who exemplifies the qualities everyone would want in a classmate, a colleague, and a friend. “This person is always there to lend a helping hand with a welcoming spirit, sincere kindness,” Ghandakly explained. “I am so glad to present the Student's Choice Award to my friend and yours.”

In closing, Dean Bass issued a charge to the graduates and prepare them for residency and they years of deep, experiential learning facing them in near future. “We need you to use your magnificent education you’ve received to do good work, to be a persons of integrity, compassion, and diligence, so that you can deliver on the missions of medicine, broadly defined, which you will pursue.”

Latest News

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is pleased to announce that Alison Hall, PhD, has been appointed to serve as the Senior Associate Dean for Research.
Researchers at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), recently published an article shedding light on the educational exposure and perspectives of dermatology resident physicians regarding sensitive skin, a common yet complex condition encountered in…
U.S. News & World Report gives high marks for GW SMGS online bachelor’s programs and online bachelor’s programs for veterans in recent rankings.