‘A calling without set boundaries’
140 members of the M.D. class of 2023 graduate during May 20 ceremony
May 23, 2023 — Over the past four years, the world of health care has changed exponentially. Yet along the winding road, medical students at the UF College of Medicine adapted the ways they learned from and connected with their peers, faculty and patients, becoming stronger medical practitioners as a result.
On May 20, surrounded by loved ones, 140 UF medical students in the class of 2023 received their diplomas and recited the Hippocratic Oath, exiting the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts as doctors of medicine for the first time.
“The past four years have been challenging but incredibly rewarding,” said Joanna Theophilopoulos Bennett, M.D. ’23, who will begin her pediatrics residency in July at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. “Being a Gator M.D. is an honor that comes with a great deal of responsibility. It means you are a diligent, resilient and astute physician. You are endlessly curious and continuously push the boundaries of medical knowledge. But more importantly, you are a compassionate listener and healer. You care for the whole person and are a fervent advocate for your patients.”
During the ceremony, Dean Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., and other speakers highlighted the compassion students expressed through their volunteer work with organizations such as the UF Equal Access Clinic Network and Mobile Outreach Clinic.
“For a great many students, this experience in service changes their understanding of medicine,” Koch said. “They learn pragmatic solutions for patients who lack a stable home, patients who are underinsured or lack transportation to pharmacies or treatment centers. They understand how environmental factors profoundly affect an individual’s health. They realize that tending to the sick is a calling without set boundaries.”
Kimberly D. Manning, M.D., a professor of medicine and associate vice chair of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Emory University School of Medicine, served as the event’s keynote speaker. She shared how being on the other side of health care while visiting with her ill father allowed her to better understand where her patients are coming from.
“Empathy-based medicine is perhaps the most important of all,” Manning said. “When you were born, someone looked in your face and wished the world for you. We have to remember that on those tired days when we’re worn down … I want you to close your eyes and think about your most cherished person, who you love the most. And think about who that person might be to someone.”
Class president Mitsy Audate, M.D. ’23, thanked the loved ones who encouraged the students during their medical studies and reminisced about the close bonds that have formed among her classmates over the past four years.
“I encourage you all to take care of yourselves so that you can best take care of others,” said Audate, who will attend Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia for her diagnostic radiology residency. “Show love to yourself so that we don’t overflow to others. Our patients will depend on us and rely on us to be at our best so that we can administer the best medical care possible. In order to do so, our minds must be clear, our bodies healthy and our souls rejuvenated.”
Three students were presented with special awards during the ceremony. Alexander Gitlin, M.D. ’23, received the C. Craig Tisher, M.D., Faculty Award for Research, presented annually to the graduating medical student who has made the most outstanding contribution in research. Esther Duqueney, M.D. ’23, received the John Gorrie Award, presented each year to the graduating medical student with “the best all-around promise for becoming a physician of the highest type.” Kathryn Monti Thompson, M.D. ’23, received the Student Excellence in Medical Education Award, which recognizes the student who has made the greatest contribution to the education of graduate students, physician assistant students and other medical students.
Graduate Caroline Signore, M.D. ’92, M.P.H., returned to campus to receive the UF Distinguished Alumna Award for her work at the National Institutes of Health during commencement, and Victoria Hoang, M.D. ’23, was commissioned as a captain for the U.S. Army on stage. She will begin her service to her patients and the country during her family medicine residency at the Martin Army Community Hospital in Fort Moore, Georgia.
M.D. class of 2023 commencement in photos
Photos by Jesse S. Jones