Realizing the dream

The 131 graduates of the class of 2013 celebrated the start of their new lives as physicians with their teachers, family and friends at the UF College of Medicine’s 53rd commencement ceremony, Saturday.

“Today your dreams of becoming a doctor become a reality,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System.

About 1,700 family members and friends, along with faculty members, attended the May 11 ceremony at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s a very exciting time to finally have all my family and friends here after four long and hard years,” said new graduate Ron Leong, M.D., whose parents and sister flew in from Macau, which is located near Hong Kong, for his graduation.

The class of 2013 includes 14 graduates qualifying for honors for academic excellence and 16 graduates qualifying for honors in research this year. Graduate Stephanie Yarnell received her M.D./Ph.D., while Lauren Lee was commissioned as a medical corps officer and pinned with her new U.S. Air Force Captain rank insignia.

“Today is an amazing milestone in your professional life, a day you will never forget,” Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, told graduates.

Joshua Cohen, M.D., who gave the student address, talked about the satisfaction he and his fellow classmates will have as they sign the Hippocratic Oath and write the initials M.D. after their names for the very first time.

“Today, in a way, is the first time in our lives we’ll have chosen names,” he said. “It’s finally ours to own.”

Jennifer Goetz, M.D., received the John Gorrie Award for showing the best promise for becoming a physician of the highest quality and became the first recipient of the Student Excellence in Medical Education Award. Demetri Arnaoutakis, M.D., received the C. Craig Tisher Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.

Commencement speaker Steven DeKosky, M.D., a 1974 College of Medicine graduate and vice president and dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, urged graduates to find a work-life balance, advocate for the good of others and remember “it’s all about the patient.”

UF has a tradition of first-rate faculty and the new graduates will be well trained to take on the challenges they will encounter as new physicians, he said. DeKosky said the best moment of the morning for him was seeing the graduating students cheer as some of their teachers filed into the auditorium.

“I owe them and the university for much of my success,” said DeKosky, referring to some of his early mentors at UF.
During the event, longtime UF College of Medicine faculty members William Enneking, M.D., and Gerold Schiebler, M.D., were recognized as UF Distinguished Achievement Awardees. Enneking is a world-renowned orthopaedics physician, while Schiebler is a pediatrician dedicated to the health care of disadvantaged children.

The new graduates will start residencies around the country this summer in a variety of specialties. Robert Hollander, M.D., adjunct assistant professor in the department of medicine and 2013 Hippocratic Award recipient, told the graduates to always continue to learn and strive to become mentors themselves as they advance in their careers.

During the graduation ceremony, two students were hooded by family members, who are UF COM faculty. Daniel Cuevas was accompanied by his father Danilo C. Cuevas, M.D., and his mother Lily L. Cuevas, who are both assistant professors in the division of neonatology at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville. Richard Schatz was joined by his father Desmond Schatz, M.D., medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence and associate chair of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine.

Diana Mora-Montero, whose family immigrated to Florida from Colombia 10 years ago, celebrated her graduation with her fiance Will McFarland
and sister Clara Mora, who both also became new physicians.

“My sister graduated from the University of South Florida’s medical school yesterday,” she said. “My fiance, Will, is in our class.”

Erin Wilmer, who was joined by family from Hawaii, likely summed up the feelings of most of her classmates as they head to the next stage of their lives.

“It really feels amazing to be moving on to the next step and also sad to leave the wonderful family and supportive environment of the place I’ve called home for the past four years,” she said.