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Images of the 2024 CU School of Medicine Hooding & Oath Ceremony.

CU School of Medicine Celebrates Class of 2024

School leaders recognized graduates’ resilience and dedication to becoming empathetic agents of change at the Hooding & Oath Ceremony.

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Written by Tayler Shaw on May 20, 2024

Amid a crowd of bright smiles, joyous cheers, and heartfelt hugs, Class of 2024 graduates from the University of Colorado School of Medicine celebrated one another’s dedication to becoming equitable and empathetic health leaders during Monday’s Hooding & Oath Ceremony. 

For the graduates, the collective celebration was a stark contrast from their isolated, virtual start of medical school in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.    

“To say the Class of 2024 has endured a lot is an enormous understatement,” said Brian Dwinnell, MD, associate dean of student life. “They not only had to excel clinically, but also adapt to an often stressful post-pandemic environment. They met this challenge with admirable fortitude. The resilience they demonstrated served as an example for everyone on campus.” 

In his final graduation speech as dean of the CU School of Medicine, John J. Reilly Jr., MD, who is retiring this summer, reflected on the graduates’ opportunity to further advance the field of medicine and address health inequities.  

“Our goal as a profession is to put ourselves out of business, and I’m counting on you and your generation to move us closer to that goal,” Reilly said.  

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Class of 2024 graduates from the University of Colorado School of Medicine on May 20, 2024.

‘Apply this knowledge and change the world’   

The Class of 2024 guest speaker was Ernest Madu, MD, a nuclear cardiologist and the chairman, founder, and CEO of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, which is the first and only state-of-the-art cardiovascular center in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.  

“Today, you stand at a new peak in your journey, having overcome immense challenges. That, in itself, is a testament to your resolve and resilience,” Madu said. “You have emerged victorious, and we celebrate you today.” 

Madu, who was born in Nigeria, described the challenges he endured after moving to the United States, where he faced discrimination due to his race and nationality. Although he was discouraged by the limitations and hurdles, he believed in himself and his desire to give back to humanity.  

“My challenge to you is this: Let your otherness be the fuel to your engine. Never allow man-made obstacles to limit your ambitions,” he said. “We’re all united by one shared language: humanity. This is the root of the pursuit of medicine.” 

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The University of Colorado School of Medicine Hooding & Oath Ceremony took place on May 20, 2024.

He encouraged the Class of 2024 to never stop imagining, dreaming, or giving to others.  

"You have gained knowledge from your first-rate education here at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, but it is your imagination through which you will apply this knowledge and change the world,” he said. “Never abandon your dreams or your ability to dream. Let your dreams drive you forward.” 

Equally important is to give back to the world, he said, noting the health inequities and disparities that face people on a global, national, and regional level.  

“I encourage you all to speak loudly with your actions. Let your voice be heard,” he said. “Go out there and make a difference.”  

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Graduates from the University of Colorado School of Medicine celebrated on May 20, 2024.

Engaging in public policy 

Over the past decade, there have been dramatic developments in medical science, whether it be the development of genetic therapies or emergence of immunotherapy, Reilly said.   

“As dynamic as the last decade has been, the next decade promises to be even more dynamic and more rapidly changing,” he said.  

Artificial intelligence, for instance, offers a breadth of new opportunities and challenges.  

“If we do not create the appropriate guidance and ethical framework for the implementation of those tools, then they will be used in ways that will not be good for society or good for our profession,” he said. “We will have to be engaged in that dialogue.” 

Today, a person’s ZIP code is more predictive of their future health than their genetic code — and that needs to change, he said. As medical professionals, he told the graduates, they have a special responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless and become more engaged in advocacy work around public policy.   

“An important consideration for you as you embark on your careers as physicians is to acknowledge the privilege you have of being a physician, and the responsibility that privilege brings,” he said. “In addition to advancing the science … be a voice to make sure that all in our society can gain access to it and reap its benefits.” 

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Family members and friends gathered to celebrate the University of Colorado School of Medicine Class of 2024 on May 20, 2024.

‘United in a mission to heal others’   

Class speakers Thy Nguyen, MD, and Laveen Khoshnaw, MD, underlined the importance of recognizing and building supportive, healthy communities. 

“My community has been everything to me, starting with my parents,” Khoshnaw said. “My parents and I came to the United States from Kurdistan over 25 years ago. My parents chose discomfort — being foreign immigrants in a brand new, wildly different society with nothing but a $20 bill and a few belongings stuffed into a duffle, in hopes of something greater.” 

Nguyen, who was elected as co-president of the Class of 2024, took a moment to recognize her mother, who immigrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War and became a seamstress.  

“My mother always said that she would have loved to be a doctor or an engineer if her circumstances allowed,” Nguyen said. “Every time I put on my white coat, my stethoscope, or my scrub cap … I feel as though I’m also carrying her dreams with me.” 

Nguyen and Khoshnaw shared these stories, in part, “to shed light on the vital importance of using our knowledge, our voice, and our compassion to alleviate human suffering,” Nguyen said.  

“We also wanted to commend you for choosing to become doctors during these times of increased political unrest, anti-science sentiment, and physician mistrust. Undoubtedly, our future careers will be challenging, but they will also be rewarding,” she added.  

Members of the Class of 2024 have been, and always will be, connected to something larger than themselves, Khoshnaw said.  

“As polarized … as the world may seem, we can take solace in knowing that we, as physicians, are united in a mission to heal others,” Khoshnaw said. “We are, first and foremost, caretakers, healers, and protectors of wellness, and therefore must be advocates for a healthy society.” 

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Class of 2024 graduates from the University of Colorado School of Medicine on May 20, 2024.

Becoming selfless, empathetic leaders  

Given the unique challenges the Class of 2024 has faced, Dwinnell said the graduates are poised to become selfless leaders who can “do a better job of preserving the ideals of the profession than we have done.” 

“As physician leaders, you are highly skilled in the ability to listen and provide empathy,” he said. “We need to serve as role models for having difficult and meaningful conversations.” 

Dwinnell underscored the value of healthy altruism, meaning the unselfish regard for the welfare of others. He hopes the graduates become happy, productive doctors who demonstrate the joy that comes from caring for, and learning from, others.  

“I stand in front of you with tremendous pride for the Class of 2024, overcoming many obstacles and constantly reminding us how fortunate we are to be members of this profession and to participate in the journey of these future physicians,” Dwinnell said.  

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Class of 2024 graduates from the University of Colorado School of Medicine gathered for a ceremony on May 20, 2024.

Medical Student Council President Andrew Mariotti, MD, recognized the graduates’ achievements beyond the classroom, including serving as agents of change who fought for social justice.  

“Becoming a physician doesn’t happen by accident, and your entry into this career is a tribute not only to your intelligence and perseverance, but your natural abilities as leaders, confidants, and people who will make a positive impact on many lives,” Mariotti said.  

Class Co-President Sarah Groover, MD, said her fellow graduates have demonstrated an innate tendency for supporting and caring for one another, saying the empathy, respect, and friendship they display is intrinsic to them.  

“Today, we shed the moniker of ‘COVID class,’ ‘hybrid class,’ or whatever other label you may have heard,” Groover said. “Today, we graduate as doctors of the empathetic, loyal, and compassionate class. A class whose priority has always been service to others, and a class full of individuals with bright futures in store.”  

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