Composite of photos of NYITCOM graduates, Class of 2020

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Virtual Hooding Ceremony Celebrates NYITCOM's Newest Physicians

May 19, 2020

Pictured: New NYITCOM graduates (l. to r.): Orkhan Mamadov, D.O.; Victor Ryan Estrella Bernal, D.O.; Elizabeth Anderson, D.O.; Matthew J. Levine, D.O.; and Christina Mary Johnson, D.O.

The expertise of today’s physicians is needed more than ever. This was the message shared with Long Island graduates of the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) Class of 2020 during a virtual hooding ceremony held May 18.

NYITCOM’s hooding ceremony is a symbolic passing of the guard from one generation of physicians to the next, as well as a time when medical school leaders and faculty share their joy with graduates. Graduates are traditionally called to the stage to receive their doctoral hoods, but given the virtual nature of this year’s event, they were instead encouraged to submit photos taken in regalia, along with a message thanking the friends and family who supported them throughout their rigorous medical school journey. With each name called, the student’s photo and “thank you” displayed, culminating in a poignant exhibition of gratitude.

With many of NYITCOM’s newest physicians choosing to graduate early and join the front lines against COVID-19, this year’s ceremony provided a much-needed celebration. Jerry Balentine, D.O., dean of NYITCOM and vice president for health sciences and medical affairs, reminded the Class of 2020 that they are well-prepared to enter the medical field and rise to the occasion during this unprecedented time.

“Your graduation looks quite different from what you and I had imagined it would look like just a few months ago, and so does our world and our world view,” said Balentine. “You are entering health care at a time that will be one of the defining moments in health care and for your generation. This will allow you to make an unprecedented impact on the health of everyone around you.”

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New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D., thanked the new physicians for their valor and noted that the selfless care they give to others will always be heroic, regardless of the current spotlight provided by the pandemic.

“It's in times like these, during this epidemic, that the heroism and dedication of physicians is most on display. But the truth is that you are heroic every day, even when the cameras are not pointed at you. So in anticipation of all the good I know you will do for your fellow human beings, let me be the first to thank you,” said President Foley.  

Emphasis on heroic action and public service continued throughout the ceremony, as nine graduates received armed forces scholarships and took the military oath of office. This year’s oath was administered by Kevin C. O’Connor (D.O. ’92), physician to former Vice President Joe Biden, who urged graduates to serve with honor and remember where their adventure began.

Class of 2020 taking Military Oath of Office

Class President Evan Michael Walsh, D.O., reminded the graduates that medical school provided them with the necessary tools to navigate the current uncertainty. He pointed to the many curveballs and challenges already overcome by the Class of 2020, including the new National Resident Matching Program combined match, among other firsts.

“We all imagined what starting our lives as physicians would look like, and now it's about to change all over again. Our experiences during residency are going to be different from anyone that's come before us. Every change that we've had to adapt to throughout medical school, the constant uncertainty of what would come next, has prepared us for this moment…We've done this before, and I know that we'll be able to do it again,” said Walsh.

NYITCOM’s Class of 2020 secured impressive residencies at institutions such as The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, Rutgers, and Penn State-Hershey, as well as specialties in orthopedic surgery, dermatology, psychiatry, pediatrics, emergency medicine, otorhinolaryngology, and many others.