Pictured: On May 24, 164 graduates from NYITCOM-Long Island attended an in-person hooding ceremony at Long Island University’s Tilles Center.
“I will be mindful always of my great responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend…”
Those are the words that more than 400 graduates from the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (NYITCOM) Class of 2021 affirmed while pledging the osteopathic oath at this year’s hooding ceremonies.
Hooding ceremonies are a symbolic rite of passage for graduates at both NYITCOM locations in Long Island and Arkansas, where the medical school’s newest physicians were welcomed into the profession.
On May 24, 164 graduates from NYITCOM-Long Island attended an in-person hooding ceremony at Long Island University’s Tilles Center. Due to COVID-19 pandemic limitations, the other half of the Long Island class attended virtually alongside family and friends but were just as much a part of the action with the power of virtual reality, which immersed participants in the live, in-person event.
NYITCOM Dean Nicole Wadsworth, D.O., reflected on the pandemic’s silver linings, noting that the challenges the class has faced have emphasized the importance of living in the moment. She commended the medical school community and graduates for coming together during a time when the future was unknown and encouraged the new physicians to carry this attitude of optimism and buoyancy into their careers.
“Let me please offer you the gift of the present. Being in the moment and focusing on what matters and what is in your control is a very powerful and important life lesson. I hope all of you will take away that lesson from [NYITCOM], and this time in our shared history,” said Wadsworth.
Jerry Balentine, D.O., executive vice president and chief operations officer, also congratulated the Class of 2021, who began their NYITCOM education during Balentine’s tenure as medical school dean. Impressed with the graduates’ resilience and strength, he said, “You showed me that we chose the right people four years ago when we had 8,000 applicants and picked you.”
New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D., applauded the new physicians and reminded them that although the pandemic shined a spotlight on physicians’ heroic actions, their heroism is always on full display, “even when the cameras aren’t rolling.”
While NYITCOM graduates traditionally take to the stage to receive their doctoral hoods, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person Long Island graduates stood as their names were called and proudly donned their hoods to the applause of their peers and NYITCOM mentors. After each graduate was recognized Allison Hubschmann (D.O. ’21), who was also the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award and the Alumni Association Award, delivered a poignant address to her fellow graduates.
“Years ago, we all took a leap of faith. All of our individual paths took us to this campus for the journey of a lifetime. Whether you were a B.S./D.O. student entering straight from undergrad, someone leaving the comfort of a nine to five job, or finally—and most inspiring—someone leaving their country and family to follow their dream of once again of becoming a physician, we have all worked so tirelessly toward this day,” said Hubschmann.
NYITCOM-Arkansas graduated 117 new physicians during an in-person ceremony at Arkansas State University’s First National Bank Arena.
NYITCOM-Arkansas graduated 117 new physicians during an in-person ceremony at Arkansas State University’s First National Bank Arena. Graduates were given a limited number of tickets for family members, and masking and social distancing were strictly enforced at the 10,000-seat arena.
Many of these graduates will play a critical role in helping to serve the Delta region, one of the nation’s most medically underserved areas. The NYITCOM-Arkansas Class of 2021 arrived in Jonesboro in 2017 as the college’s second class after it opened its doors a year earlier. Last spring, the medical school held a virtual ceremony to honor its inaugural class. In addition to Dean Wadsworth, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., NYITCOM-Arkansas founding dean, and Shane Speights, D.O., site dean of NYITCOM-Arkansas, addressed the newly hooded physicians.
“The road to, and through, medical school is not easy,” Speights said. “It pushes and tests the traveler at every turn. Even as this point in the journey is reached, there is still more that is expected and required of the medical school graduate. You are about to enter into the clinical aspects of your training, where you will be directly responsible for the care of a patient. It’s a responsibility that many seek and few have. Guard this responsibility closely, it is not to be abused and it is not to be taken for granted, for the relationship between doctor and patient is a sacred trust”
Pooja Kethireddy (D.O. ’21), president of the NYITCOM-Arkansas Class of 2021, concluded the ceremony by recalling the unique challenges her class faced over the last four years and thanked her family and friends for their support through the journey.
“Before I started medical school, a good friend of mine told me, ‘Behind every great physician, there is an army,’” Kethireddy said. “This statement couldn’t be truer. As much as today is about us graduates accomplishing this milestone, it is also about all of you here today, in person or in spirit. The constant encouragement and unwavering support has spoken volumes throughout this journey. The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough to express the immense gratitude we have for all of you.”
In total, seven graduates across both NYITCOM locations received armed forces scholarships and took the military oath of office, which was administered virtually by alumnus Kevin O’Connor (D.O. ’92), former U.S. military physician and current White House Physician to President Joe Biden.
The Class of 2021’s impressive residencies includes institutions such as The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, and Tufts Medical Center, among others. Many graduates are also pursuing residencies in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, dermatology, psychiatry, pediatrics, emergency medicine, otorhinolaryngology, as well as additional specialties.
See how this year’s graduates are leaving their mark throughout the United States and the Delta region:
By Casey Pearce