GMS Class of ’22: Making a Difference by Patience, Perseverance, Resiliency

A proud parent takes a photo of their graduating daughter
The commencement ceremony is one of the most joyous annual events of academic life, BUMC Provost and BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD, told the 237 students, their families and friends assembled for the Graduate Medical Sciences Master’s Commencement at the BU Track & Tennis Center Thursday morning.

That joy was heightened for the Class of 2022 by being the first GMS commencement since 2019 to be celebrated in-person after COVID-19 preventive measures mandated virtual ceremonies in 2020 and 2021. It also marked the first time Physician Assistant Program graduates participated; they previously held a separate ceremony later in the year.

“Your class will always have a unique perspective,” said C. James McKnight, PhD, associate provost and GMS dean. “Some of you were locked out of your research labs, for months, and then only allowed back in shifts and small groups. Some of you were unable to do in-person clinical rotations for several months. But your class made a difference to GMS by their patience, perseverance and resiliency in meeting this challenge.”

“We have learned to deal with the pandemic better, and your careers will be influenced by your experience,” McKnight continued. “The faculty are confident that you have the will, the courage and the tools that are necessary to make a difference to all of our futures.”

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, Antman said that their graduation only marked the end of the beginning of their education; “the diploma you get today is the credential that grants you entry to the next stage of your life.”

“The faculty have great confidence in your creativity, resilience, collaboration and commitment. These skills have served you well through your education in the time of COVID and will serve you well in your career,” said Antman.

One of three student speakers chosen by their peers, Christian Arbelaez, said the obstacles presented by COVID-19 also created opportunities to forge stronger bonds with his classmates.

Students in their robes and caps

“These experiences, in the moments when we could truly see each other not just as classmates, but as companions on the journey we are embarking on together, helped to strengthen our commitments to serving others in medicine,” said Arbelaez, a Boston-area native who received his Master of Arts in Medical Sciences and now is headed to medical school at BUSM. “Take chances, believe in yourselves, and make connections based on your passions. By doing this, I know that we will all find fulfillment, succeed in our professional careers, and make a difference to everyone around us.”

Introducing student speaker and Physician Assistant Program Class President Kara McNeil, McKnight cited her leadership in fostering a community of learners known for their enthusiasm and volunteerism.

“I have watched this class grow and learn not only the science but the importance of compassion, dignity, and health equity,” said McNeil.

McNeil recalled her first few months in the PA program were spent in her apartment with groceries delivered, classes online, and a social life limited to Facetiming friends and family back on Long Island, NY.

“My classmates and I made the most of the hand we were dealt and still managed to form unbreakable bonds and lifelong friendships,” McNeil said.

“Can we put “being flexible” on our resume?” she asked.

The onset of the pandemic inspired speaker Elizabeth Wade to pursue a childhood dream of a career as a forensic scientist and travel across the country two years ago to enter the Biomedical Forensic Sciences program.

“As I stand here at this commencement ceremony…I know I have made 13-year/-old Beth proud,” Wade said. “And I hope that is how you all feel too…I hope that this accomplishment has put you on the path to your dreams.”

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