For most of the population, advice for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic includes practicing social distancing, wearing a mask when you’re out in public and staying home as much as possible, but this is not an accurate depiction of life going forward for the BUSM MD Class of 2020.
On Friday, April 17, 190 members of the Class of 2020 graduated four weeks early in a virtual ceremony during the start of the surge of the pandemic in Massachusetts. Never has BUSM’s tagline, “We are Frontline Medicine” been truer. “This is no ordinary medical school. Here you’ll find students, researchers and faculty with a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude, fierce empathy, and a global drive. We not only pay special attention to the underserved, but work tirelessly at the edges of modern medicine. Whether it’s tackling the resurgence of an infectious disease, uncovering brain disease in a retired linebacker, or analyzing healthcare patterns in rural Zambia, we’ve built our classrooms at the very front lines of the human condition.”
This sounds like it was written just for them.
“You are becoming physicians at perhaps the most medically challenging time in the last century…Now, as a newly minted physician, you will be literally on the frontlines of a global pandemic…This will change your residencies that you had planned and this will change you,” said Karen H. Antman, MD, BUMC provost and BUSM dean.
During the virtual ceremony, BUSM conferred 190 medical degrees: 27 students earned Latin honors—19 cum laude, six magna cum laude, and two summa cum laude, Sarah Nocco and Andrew Jenkins. Dr. Angela Jackson, associate dean for Student Affairs, announced the 56 student award recipients.
Forrest Beaulieu, who will join Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in June as a pediatric neurology resident, was the class speaker. While at BUSM, Dr. Beaulieu studied the effects of extreme preterm birth on MRIs, how parents understand cerebral palsy, and some of their misconceptions. He also was a volunteer with the Telehealth Epilepsy Care Collaborative, working with adolescents and young adults to transition their epilepsy care from pediatric to adult providers.
“The most important thing medical school has taught me…is that, even during crisis, medicine is about people. Our job will be to meet people, hear their thoughts and their stories, and we will do our best to help them,” he said.
“At this critical inflection point in healthcare’s history…we physicians are needed more than ever as leaders, problem solvers, outside-the-box thinkers, advocates, and teachers. As healers. This frightening pandemic will have a permanent effect on this country and on healthcare as a whole. We will never be the same. and we have the once-in-a-generation chance to build the future of American medicine. The panel of people for whom you will be caring in the next few months will need you more than they have ever needed a doctor before. Bring with you to residency your personality, your sense of humor, your curiosity, and your life experiences. But especially, bring your hope, because our patients may need that most. … Remember that you will not always be able to fix every problem, but you can always help. Some say it was Hippocrates who described the role of the physician as ‘To cure sometimes, to relieve often, and to comfort always.’ I ask you, my classmates, to join me in that quest. We will beat this thing. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be your classmate, and I look forward to being your colleague.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh, BMC Chief Medical Officer Ravin Davidoff, MBBCh, and BMC Emergency Medicine physician and BUSM Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education Jeff Schneider, MD, all sent congratulatory videos.
Governor Baker thanked the students for choosing a profession that remains profoundly noble. “Thank you for stepping up at a point in time, when not just the commonwealth or this country, but the world, will need your very best. Congratulations and good luck.”
Mayor Walsh added, “Right now, our city, our state, our country need you more than ever, and we are all rooting for you as you start your residency. Good luck and thank you, doctors!”
“I hope each of you takes with you a piece of what’s so special about the hospital and patients that we serve, wherever you’re going across this country. We couldn’t be prouder of you and please, please stay in touch. You’re part of the family,” shared Ms. Walsh.
“My hope and dream for you and our society is that as you move into the next stage of your careers, you will help to make medicine and healthcare better for the entire community. That we all learn from this moment in time, and think and act differently to flatten the curve of inequity highlighted by this viral infection,” said Dr. Davidoff. I know that each of you has the ability to make a difference, and I am more confident today with COVID-19 as your foundation, Boston University School of Medicine as your education platform, that you will help to make the world a better place …. Wishing you all Godspeed.”
“You’re entering medicine at a time that’s certainly like no other in my career and hopefully in your career. The skills that you learned, not only in medicine, but also those related to compassion, integrity, ingenuity, patience, and collaboration are more important now than ever,” said Dr. Schneider.
“We are immensely proud of all that you have done and I hope that you are too, and I look forward to following the trajectory of your career and congratulations.”
Dr. Priya Garg, associate dean for Medical Education, presented the graduates, who then joined Dean Antman in reciting the Hippocratic Oath. “You first took this oath at your white coat ceremony when the faculty welcomed you to the study of medicine. Today, the faculty welcomes you to the practice of medicine.”