Growing into new physicians together

The 135 graduates of the class of 2012 shared their first day as new physicians with family and friends from across the country at the UF College of Medicine’s 52nd commencement ceremony.

“It feels great,” said new graduate Vesta Anilus, M.D. “It’s been a long four years — definitely one of the biggest challenges of my life and one of the most rewarding ones, too.”

About 1,600 family members and friends, along with 75 faculty members, attended the May 19 ceremony at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“The class of 2012 is remarkably accomplished in the classroom, research laboratory and community,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System.

The class of 2012 excelled in research with 26 graduates qualifying for honors in research this year, up from 12 in 2011. Graduate Adam Mecca received his M.D./Ph.D.

Forty-six students graduated with honors for academic excellence, research or special achievement, and more than 50 students received special departmental or college awards for excellence in academic studies.

“It was together that we grew into better people and, as of today, motivated physicians,” said graduate Andrew Kuykendall, M.D., who was chosen by his class to give the student address.

Krista Matrone, M.D., received the John Gorrie Award for showing the best promise for becoming a physician of the highest quality, while Saad Mir, M.D., received the C. Craig Tisher Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.

“Do something great with these gifts,” Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, told graduates.

The new physicians will soon start residencies around the country in 19 different specialties, with 44 percent training in primary care specialties. Twenty-three percent will remain in Florida for their post-graduate training.

Commencement speaker Greg Holzman, M.D., a 1995 college graduate and official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke about the qualities needed to become a good physician.

“Knowledge alone will not make a good physician,” he said.

H. James Free, M.D., a member of the college’s first graduating class of 1960, was recognized for receiving an honorary degree, the Doctorate of Humane Letters, and for his generous donation to the construction of the new George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building.

During the graduation ceremony, several students were hooded by family members, who are UF COM faculty and alumni. Isidore Daniel Benrubi was accompanied by his father Guy Benrubi, M.D., chair of department of obstetrics and gynecology at the College of Medicine-Jacksonville. Christopher Bucciarelli was joined by his father Richard Bucciarelli, M.D., former chair of the college’s department of pediatrics, and his godmother Amelia Cruz, M.D., professor of pediatrics and OB/GYN. Kelly Tepedino received her hood from husband Miguel J. Tepedino, M.D., a member of the class of 2006 and a department of community health and family medicine faculty member.

Meanwhile, Lauren Van Eldik Kuykendall was hooded by her father, Richard Van Eldik, M.D., a member of the class of 1980.

“He’s been my inspiration since I’ve been little,” she said.

Four graduates were also commissioned as medical corps officers. Maria Kravchenko, who at 22 years old is one of the college’s youngest graduates, was pinned with her new U.S. Air Force Captain rank insignia by her father Ivan Kravchenko.

Stacey Stevens Schmiedecke received her new U.S. Navy Lieutenant rank insignias from her husband, who is also in the Navy and set to graduate from medical school next year. He saluted her before giving her a hug.

“It’s nice that I get to outrank him for one year,” she said with a laugh.